An exploratory study of sexism in online gaming communities: mapping contested digital terrain.

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There is an emerging awareness of the ways in which women are participating in online gaming activities, exercising citizenship within gaming communities, and contributing to the proliferation of gaming cultures. However substantive challenges have been noted for women in laying claim to the ‘gamer identity’, within digital domains described as masculine, and at times hostile spaces by players, campaigners and activists. Contemporarily, in public discourse, gaming is becoming increasingly synonymous with sexism; with media reporting harassment of female-identifying gamers as well as those who have publicly voiced concern about these issues. The gendered dimension of these issues tends to be fiercely disputed and has competing understandings in online spaces. This study combined issue network analysis and grounded theory to produce a contextualised exploration of the ways in which sexism was understood and negotiated in gaming communities. Analysis of multi-modal data revealed three categories which denoted strategic “contested sites” where key aspects of the debate were framed and prevailing meanings established including; 1) potential (mis)recognition of such behaviours within social gaming contexts, 2) mistaken emphasis upon the gendered dimension of identity within interactions, and 3) qualification to ‘count’ and be heard on these issues. Online spaces are significant in the reproduction of existing of the inequalities that tend to be encountered when working with/in offline communities and owing to the technological affordances and contextual nuances, are also sites of cultural production where relations of gendered power may be configured. The implications for transformation efforts to promote safe and inclusive spaces are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-135
Number of pages17
JournalCommunity Psychology in Global Perspective
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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  • online harassment
  • gender
  • video games
  • online citizenship
  • online communities


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