Multimedia Project Proposal: The Bigot Gamer

My little brother is 12 years old and, for years, has loved the online gaming world much to my parents’ dismay. My mother and father were never big fans of “distractions” like television, chat rooms, or unlimited texting but they were especially concerned about gaming. Their complaints were unlike most parents – it was not the gratuitous violence, disturbing or dystopian topics that irked them most, but rather the homogeneity and whiteness widely constructed and reinforced through games that heroified white men. They were also aware that many of these games included chat rooms and live action discussion, and so they worried that my brother would be exposed to mature language and bullying in a space that they could not knowledgably monitor or navigate. My project will explore racism and sexism in the gaming world and how diverse communities of gamers are coping with and reacting to these anonymous environments that not only force them to construct identities around white, straight male ideals but also tend to expose them to prejudice and bullying when their gaming personas deviate from the norm. I will also raise the question of who encourages and bears responsibility for cyber-prejudice – the gamers themselves of the developers who first constructed these fantasy and idealized worlds?

racistgamer

 

^ Popular memes like this one are indicative of the pervasive presence of racism in gaming

 

There is relatively little academic research around racism and sexism in online gaming, and what is available either ignores the actual experiences and responses of minority gamers or fails to adequately assign responsibility. Breanne Fahs and Michelle Gohr argue in Superpatriarchy Meets Cyberfeminism that while cyberspace offers a variety of ways to subvert and disrupt gender traditions, it has also created a superpatriarchy that results in the erasure of women and intensified surveillance of women’s bodies, but does not engage extensively with race.[1] Peck, Ketchum, and Embrick in Racism and Sexism in the Gaming World analyze two major gaming magazines and find that the quality of representation of women and minorities is far lower than that of white males and that the various stereotypes have remained constant over the past two decades. [2] They suggest that the gaming industry and advertising are culpable for the maintenance of white male preference. And finally, in Intersecting Oppressions and Online Communities, Gray discusses the experiences of women of color in Xbox Live and how their confrontations with racialized sexism lead to the creation of self-segregated communities of online gamers.[3] My project aims to combine these three avenues of exploration, with a focus on how stigmatized communities combat and cope with the anonymized and therefore disinhibited climate of cyberspace and fantasy gaming.

cityofheroes

The multiplayer game City of Heroes was well-known for being dominated by heroic white men and sexualized and accessorized women

My research will be largely qualitative, as I will be examining everything from the websites and blogs of minority gamers to the imagery and advertising promoted by developers. One such blog example is The Bigot Gamer, a site devoted to outing gaming bigots by asking followers to record their experiences and share them on the site. Videos of racist, sexist, and homophobic interactions are shared and the player names of the perpetrators exposed (see video shared below). The Bigot Gamer calls itself “a social experiment” to prove “bigotry is alive and thriving… when people think they are anonymous.” I will examine experiments of resistance like The Bigot Gamer, and attempt to determine the ways in which they serve as support systems and outlets for those excluded from the mainstream gaming community.

Because an exploration of gaming culture encompasses many forms of multimedia – videos, advertisements, blogs and more—I will combine my project into a Prezi format for presentation. The Prezi tool allows users to seamlessly present text, images, memes, and videos and will be especially valuable for a project that will be significantly visual.

[1] Fahs, Breanne, and Michelle Gohr. “Superpatriarchy Meets Cyberfeminism: Facebook, Online Gaming, and the New Social Genocide.” MP: An Online Feminist Journal 3.6 (2012): n. pag. Web.

[2] “Racism and Sexism in the Gaming World: Reinforcing or Changing Stereotypes in Computer Games?” Journal of Media and Communication Studies 3 (2011): 212-20. Academic Journals. Web.

[3] Gray, Kishonna L. “Intersecting Oppressions And Online Communities.” Information, Communication & Society (2011): 1-18. Web.

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