Femininities and Technologies: Gender Identities and Relations in Video Games

Femininities and Technologies: Gender Identities and Relations in Video Games

Mariana Michels Fontoura, Marília Abrahão Amaral
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2637-8.ch012
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The role of gender in the design of technologies has been a topic of growing importance in fields such as interaction design, HCI, and games. Understanding that technology development and usage practices emerge within the cultural processes, the authors propose in this chapter a discussion about the notions of traditional femininity, its relation to video games, as well as new approaches to female representation. It is also assessed the cultural understanding of gender, sex, and sexuality, as well as how these notions may influence the players experience. The issues discussed and briefly analyzed here point to a production and regulation of gender by technologies such as video games. Therefore, the goal is to assess how gender notions and relations influence the design and use of games in terms of visuals, narrative and sociability.
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This chapter starts with the premise that technology development and its usage practices emerge within social and cultural processes. That means that technology's historical heritage and the developers' context influence its processes and products (Bardzell, 2010). Video games, as technological artifacts, are equally affected by the social, historical and cultural dynamics. The role of gender in designing technologies has been a topic of growing importance in fields such as Interaction design and HCI (Bardzell, 2010; Breslin & Wadhwa, 2014), and Games (Shaw, 2014; Cassel & Jenkins, 2000; Rodrigues, 2014; Goulart & Nardi, 2017). Most discussions involving female representation or femininity in video games approach visual and narrative aspects. Those are important pillars to understand representation, and in addition to these topics, the approach regarding the interaction between players, and how gender notions and relations shape the sociability between players is proposed here.

Therefore, in this chapter, the goal is to analyze the influence of gender norms and relations related to femininity in the development and use of video games. It starts with an explanation of essential terms to ground the theoretical discussion around gender relations in video games, and later a brief analysis about female representation and player’s experiences. In the brief analysis, the authors first focus on the representation of three characters from the game “Overwatch.” Later, a few players’ shared experiences, concerning gender and game discussions, are also briefly analyzed, taking into account the notion of rape culture and the power relations that structure gender relations in society. This analysis took into consideration: visual aspects, narrative and sociability, in order to cover both the designer/project and the player/usage realms. The visual and narrative factors are considered relevant because they take part in the development and design of games. The sociability factor is relevant because it focuses on how players act upon gender in video games. Without further ado, in this chapter, the intention is to discuss how gender norms, identities and relations shape the design of video games, as well as the ways the notion of femininity can be reinforced or subverted by its use.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Visual Aspects: The elements of a game that are perceived through vision

Sex: Biological feature of a body that incur in a person being female, male or intersex.

Gender: Behaviors, values, clothing, and other social and cultural attributes that are portrayed and perceived as appropriate to a particular sex.

Masculinity: Gender notions associated to the masculine culture, and socially suggested as appropriate to men

Femininity: Gender notions associated to the feminine culture, and socially suggested as appropriate to women

Narrative: The backgrounds and plots that ground a game’s story; aspects of a game that transmit a story to the player.

Sociability: The social aspect of a game; how players interact in a given game.

Video Game: Play activity, mediated by a computer, in the context of a pretended reality that the participants choose to engage with, seeking to fulfill a goal in accordance with the established rules.

Sexuality: The ways a person experiences its body in terms of sexual orientation, identity and desire.

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