Conference Agenda

RS01_06: Gender, Identity and the Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion in Video Game Culture(s)
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Aphra Kerr, Maynooth University
Location: GM.328
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road


Engaging Women In Games. The Stakes Of Diversity Challenges In French Esports Institutionalization

Samuel Vansyngel

University Paris 13, France

In France, the recent institutionalization of esports rise non only a growing interest for the competitions but also some gender balance challenges. On July 2018, “Esports and diversity” meeting was organized by two important associations (France Esport and Women In Games) in order to “promote”, as they said, professional women gamers. Indeed, we observe that men are mainly prevailing in French tournaments. But how exactly are women supposed to become more numerous? What is specifically proposed to empower female players in such a masculine environment as esports? An ongoing institutional ethnography that we are caring out in different French esports settings (teams, LANs, events) will try to answer these questions. First of all, we will show that women are already present in esports. However they are rarely have a status of player. Performing the organizational functions, participating in costume contests, or as a saleswoman on the merchant stands, they reproduce the ordinary social work division and these secondary roles leave them invisible. Secondly, we will show that strategies like “developing the women market in esports” that are put forward by some actors, reactivate the gender-based consumption by promoting women figures in gaming industry and professional players. The other frequent strategy discovered by our field-work consist of promoting gender diversity by developing the history female champions, but it is also an extension of a gender discrimination: the industry does not tend to reconsider the competitive masculine culture, even if some actors want to fight sexism. At last, glorifying the winners of battles results on forcing the women to play by the rules in which men are in advance more competent thanks to their masculine socialization.

[Cos]Playing with Videogames: Identity and Performance in Cosplay

Garry Crawford, David Hancock

University of Salford, United Kingdom

Following James Newman’s assertion that games research needs to focus more on what people do with games, and how they play with them, this paper focuses on the practices and culture of cosplayers and how they (re)interpret and bring to life video game characters. In particular, one of the core questions frequently discussed in both the academic literature and also often by cosplayers themselves, is, to what extent cosplay is about playing out another character, or is it more a means by which cosplayers express or explore aspects of their own (existing) identity?

Drawing on over five years of ethnographic research and also the innovative use of art as both a method and data, this paper explores the complex and often thorny issue of identity and cosplay, and in particular, considers cosplay as a performance of identity. Cosplay, we argue, is a performance that allows participants to explore new and existing aspects of their identity, such as their gender and sexuality, and through performative play, expand who they are and who they can be.

Disability and Mental Health as a Video Game Live Streamer

Mark R Johnson

University of Alberta, United Kingdom

In this paper I explore economic and inclusion opportunities for people with disabilities and mental health issues afforded by the ‘live streaming’ of video games. This involves the live broadcast of one’s game playing activities over the internet to a globally dispersed audience. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the leading live streaming platform broadcast over 500,000 years of video, which were produced by over two million regular broadcasters (‘streamers’), and consumed by an audience of several hundred million viewers. Every kind of game is broadcast live on Twitch, accompanied by a webcam of the streamer and their live commentary. From this activity streamers can profit, up to and including a full-time living ‘wage’ for those at the highest levels. Numerous successful streamers with chronic health issues have discussed the personal and professional benefits streaming brings them. Utilising data from a research project with 100 interviews, alongside approximately 500 hours of ethnographic observation, this paper examines the experiences of live streaming for broadcasters with disabilities, mental health issues, or physical health issues. Firstly, I explore the positive elements of streaming for these broadcasters, focusing on the many conditions represented in this demographic, and the benefits streaming gives for inclusion and community. Secondly, I consider the negative experiences of these streamers, focused on entanglements of health and technology that make their streaming lives potentially more challenging than their colleagues. Thirdly, I focus on the economic opportunities, and the potential for entrepreneurial activity, the platform affords. I conclude the analysis by exploring how these aspects make live streaming a potentially exemplary emancipatory and entrepreneurial space for these individuals, but not one without challenges.

‘Where are all the female gamers?’ – Female Gamers and Competitive Gaming in Esports

Ying-Ying Law

Staffordshire University, United Kingdom

Female gamers have often been routinely marginalised with a lack of acceptance in video game spaces. However, many studies tend to focus on the marginalisation and exclusion of female gamers within private spaces (such as in their own home), rather than their participation in public spaces (such as gaming events).

Traditionally, women in public gaming scenes have often been documented as the marginalised girlfriend, or more recently as the hyper-sexualised or sideshow professional player/all female team. This example prompts some worthwhile considerations on access to gaming and game spaces where entry involves a more complex structural arrangement, including networks, gaming know-how and access to technology/games – in particular, in esports (electronic sports - competitive gaming with high stakes).

To date, some esports tournaments and organisations have started to consider the gender diversity of video game communities with ‘women only tournaments’ and ‘women gaming spaces’ to normalise the notion of women competing. For example, Smash Sisters is a series of women’s crew battles feature the Super Smash Brothers games, GirlGamer Festivals, WEGS women-only tournaments for specific games (CS:GO and Hearthstone) with smaller prize pools and Badass Women of Hearthstone tournaments. However, there have been continuous debates whether women only tournaments can be justified.

This places importance on understanding the attitudes towards female gamers and competitive gaming, as well as encouraging women to compete in video game tournaments on the same platform as men to challenge the gender diversity of video game communities within video gamer culture. There is also of equal importance to understand the attitudes towards male gamers and competitive gaming, as well as encouraging a balance between community and competition for competitive gamers.

Two Perspectives On Gaming Among Senior Citizens

Damian Gałuszka

Jagiellonian University, Poland

Gaming has become a widespread leisure activity that is popular among increasingly diverse groups of people. Reports suggest that the population of gamers is increasing in age and becoming more inclusive. This process has been noted by many researchers, who study such issues as the relations between gaming and disability or population ageing. Nevertheless, some questions still remain unanswered.

This presentation aims to provide new data regarding gaming among senior citizens that result from the author’s research projects. The first of them is a digital ethnography project, which studies a self-description of highly engaged older gamers from two most popular Internet discussion forums: “The Older Gamers” ( and the “Senior Gamers” ( In order to obtain information on their characteristics (including their gaming history, motivations and expectations), the posts published in the introduction sections of the mentioned Internet forums were subject to analysis. Although the time range of interesting forum posts extends from 2005 to the present, the amount of investigated data was limited to messages published by users aged >50 years (N=471). The second project is a work-in-progress exploratory study, which analyses the understudied phenomenon of gaming among the Polish senior citizens. The analysis of the role of digital games in a sample group of Poles aged 60+ is based on narrative in-depth interviews.

Not only a discussion of findings from the above-mentioned research projects will be presented, but also a comparison of most important similarities and differences between both groups of senior citizen gamers.