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games research

Sorry Mario, but our princess is in another castle- Gender and identity in gaming

Whilst reading the books and essays assigned for this course, one of the topics which interested me quite a lot, was this notion of Gender and Identity in the world of gaming. For my research, I want to look at these themes and answer the questions budding in my head: What gaming states about gender and how it affects the gamer’s identity in a social context.

As an example of gender in video games i want to point out a part in Bonnie Nardi’s ‘My life as a night elf priest.’ where she states that “female players nearly always choose female characters in WoW.” I found that statement surprisingly normal, since I too normally choos female characters to act out in games. An essay I read for my research entitled, ‘Perils of a Princess: Gender and Genre in videogames’ by Sahron.R. Sherman, spoke about the same phenomenon. She too found that her female participants would mostly choose female characters, whilst male gamers would choose a male character and find choosing female characters “wierd.”

In this essay, Sherman draws interesting parallels between the adventure classics which have been a part of our culture as humans, the Jungian Archetype and the concept of adventures and plot in gaming. Here she brings out interesting points about the psychology behind gaming and how gamers reflect and form their identities through adventure gaming such as Mario.

Nintendo’s slogan game, Mario, is one of the major examples analyzed in this essay. The gender lines are drawn pretty harshly in the Marion games, where the two Italian plumbers would rescue the princess. The whole plot, as Sherman states, is shaped around this archetype: heroes rescue the damsel in distress.




One thought on “Sorry Mario, but our princess is in another castle- Gender and identity in gaming

  1. On this subject, and for the purpose of your topic I assume, you might find Feminist Frequencies’ Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series interesting and useful. You can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6p5AZp7r_Q The topic of this first part is appropriately the Damsel in Distress trope.

    Regarding women picking female characters and men picking male characters, it’s certainly understandable. I pick female characters when I have the option more or less 100% of the time. I think the “weirdness” men feel regarding picking female characters probably has to do with discomfort regarding women and homosexuality. In video games female/woman characters are typically objects of desire, hence chain mail bikinis in fantasy games or camera close-ups of the behind of the Mass Effect series character Miranda. Heterosexual men could potentially feel a discomfort at the possibility of their cipher being an object of desire for other heterosexual men. I imagine the more comfortable a straight man is with his sexuality, the more comfortable he’d be with picking a female character. On that note it would be interesting to see whether people with non-normative sexualities are more liable to pick characters of a different sex/gender. Of course this fails to address women frequently picking female characters. Comfort in a portrayal that validates their identities, or maybe distaste/discomfort for the frequently hypermasculine bodies in video games (see: barrel chested wizards in World of Warcraft)? It would require more research to tell.

    Posted by emmapezz | June 12, 2013, 11:39 am

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