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Role-playing Romances and the Fantasies of Fans
articles in english - Beiträge - Sonderausgabe "Gender in Games and Gaming"

Role-playing Romances and the Fantasies of Fans

Abstract: The following article examines the representation of romantic relationships, gender, and sexual orientation in the RPGs of the Canadian game developing company Bioware. It critically analyzes how plot and game dynamics present romantic contexts in general and how those presentations relate to Western heterosexual norms; thus opening a discursive connection between 'gaming' and 'mainstream' culture.

Analyzing socio-cultural dynamics between norm and subversion in BioWare’s RPGs 

Getting Acquainted

Computer role-playing games or, as they are known among gamers, RPGs, are the domain of dragon slaying heroes and heroines, of quests to be fulfilled for glory and riches, of inventory management, of calculating and gathering experience points and of many more staples that have by now buried themselves in the collective unconscious of game-playing people of multiple generations. 1The matter of the canonization of video games is another fascinating issue altogether, especially considering generational shifts. It is, however, a matter best left to concentrated research efforts, a purpose for which I would like to recommend Jannidis, Fotis: “Wertungen und Kanonisierungen von Computerspielen”, in Matthias Beilein/Claudia Stockinger/Simone Winko (eds.): Kanon, Wertung und Vermittlung. Literatur in der Wissensgesellschaft. Berlin/Boston, MA: de Gruyter 2012, pp. 321-344. In the best of cases, these games will also contain strong elements of character development; the role to be played in any given role-playing game needs to be communicated and discussed in the inter­action of gamers and games.

The RPG heroes’ and heroines’ journey accordingly includes trials, tribulations and tests that are designed to achieve no more or less than a determination of their characters. And much like the exploits of an endless number of fictional protagonists, the RPG protagonist’s journey will more often than not include some element of romance. On different levels, both the players and characters of RPGs will engage in various amorous activities and discourses – they will choose between romantic ‘candidates’, find an NPC (non-player character) to court, as well as get in and out of relationships of different levels of commitment.

So far, so similar to real life. It has been argued before that computer gaming in general can play a substantial part in the development of a gamer’s identity as a person 2cf. Markus Wiemker/Jeffrey Wimmer: “Computerspielkulturen. Praktiken der Aneignung durch Computerspielfans”, in Vera Cuntz-Leng (ed.): Creative Crowds. Perspektiven der Fanforschung im deutschsprachigen Raum. Darmstadt: Büchner 2014, pp. 113-135, here p. 116.. Perhaps not surprisingly, role-playing games are particularly well suited as a medium for processes of establishing, questioning or subverting stable identities, whether these processes are socioeconomic, cultural, ethnical or pertaining to sexual or gender identities 3cf. ibid..

As it shall become obvious in the course of my examinations, the topic of sexual and gender re/presentations in the context of computer gaming are an area of critical thought that cannot n good conscience be overlooked – it interdepends too strongly with ‘real’ social dynamics and power structures. Accordingly, this paper aims to retrace the development of the romantic possibilities presented by one of the most successful and popular brands of RPG, namely those published by Canadian game developer BioWare. Having published RPGs for almost two decades, this particular company seems ideally suited as an opportunity to critically examine: a) how plot and game dynamics present romantic contexts in general and b) how those presen­tations relate to Western heterosexual norms, as well as establish a foothold for a discussion about the aesthetics of gender in gaming.

Since it can, however, be argued that any representation of romance, sex and gender pertains not only to the identities of in-game characters but also to those of the gamers 4cf. Friedemann Schindler: “Super Mario und Super Marion. Geschlechtsrollen in Computer- und Videospielen”, in Medien Praktisch 3, 1996, pp. 21-25, here 21., I will also take a close look at those instances where fan communities take steps to go beyond the explicit possibilities of a game and develop their own content based on those possibilities – the practices of ‘modding’ or ‘Let’s Play’ videos being of particular interest.

Naturally, this topic needs to be discussed on the basis of current computer game studies. However, since I am examining an area where social dynamics and economic interests converge with the practice of gaming and the form of games, it will also become necessary to keep in mind the broader context of aesthetical and critical theory.

When a PC meets an NPC

As an overview of romantic processes in Bioware’s games, I will commence with Baldur’s Gate (1996) and list all the major developments that the game dynamics have gone through since then. In the interest of brevity, I will ignore both the non-RPG games produced by BioWare and those RPGs that bring no significant changes in terms of romantic representations. Where not explicitly mentioned otherwise, the topic of discussion are the so-called ‘vanilla’ games, i.e. without mods or similar additional content. The topic of such modifications is, of course, vital to the greater scheme of the debate about sexuality and gender in computer games. Accordingly, I will discuss it separately, after a brief overview of the games relevant for my observations.

Baldur’s Gate (1998) only provided limited possibilities for its main character to interact with companions or party members. Consequently, there are no direct options for any romantic activity. The plot of the game does, depending on the main character’s choices, allow for the development of romantic sub-plots, such as the romance of the two NPCs Minsc and Dynaheir as well as the amorous exploits of various minor game characters. All of these situations are heterosexual and (considering the usual allow­ances for fantasy settings) fairly traditional. The main characters them­selves are never brought into a situation where their identity is romantically tested. Instead, the game focuses on having the main character developed in relation to more familial figures, such as their foster father Gorion, their foster sister Imoen or their godparents Khalid and Jaheira. No romantic changes were presented in the addon to the game, Tales of the Sword Coast (1999).

The sequel Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000) introduced the possibility for explicit romantic exchanges. Main characters could now, through dialogue with specific companions, develop growing intimacy in their conversations, eventually leading to relationships and, in some cases, implied sexual acts. Both male and female characters had the opportunity to engage in such romance, but all relationships were limited to heterosexual standards. In addition to this, the ‘romanceable’ NPCs that the original game presented included significantly more options for male characters than female ones.

In any given romantic dialogue situation presented by Baldur’s Gate II, the dialogue options chosen by the player will determine whether the romance continues or fails, but in addition to this, other in-game options will enable/preclude romance, such as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ actions, depending on the romanced character’s morality. Romancing an NPC, apart from providing an opportunity for role-play, furthermore carries with it the reward of additional game content in the form of quests that are available only through the respective romance sub plot. The addon, Throne of Bhaal (2001), presented no changes to this, but included the possibility of one of the female NPCs, Aerie, becoming the mother of a male protagonist’s child.

Neverwinter Nights (2002) focused less on romance, largely due to its lesser focus on party interaction in general. No interactions with companions go beyond flirtatious banter. Among the game’s non-companion characters, there is one romantic option each for male and female heterosexual characters, but those romances lead to little more than some additional dialogue. The first addon to the game, Shadows of Undrentide (2003), included no options for in-game romance, but notably made it possible to have a companion character, Dorna Trapspringer, elaborate on her homo­sexuality. The second addon, Hordes of the Underdark (2003), goes back to the pseudosymmetry of presenting one male and one female romance option, both heterosexual.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003) was the first of BioWare’s RPGs to make a significant step towards plurality by including a romance option designed for same-sex oriented female characters. However, this option (in form of the cat-like alien Juhani) provides far less additional content than the (again, pseudosymmetrical) options for heterosexual romance.

This apparent focus on the equilibrium of heteronormative romance with offshoots into queer experimentation was notably suspended in the case of Jade Empire (2005); here, queer romance appears to be the norm rather than the exception. In the game, three NPCs can be romanced by the player. One (Dawn Star) being a female romance option for male PCs, and two (Silk Fox/Sky) being – respectively – a female and a male character who can each be romantically approached by both male and female player characters.

Mass Effect (2007) followed the one-each dynamic from previous games but included a character that could be romanced by both male and female main characters. This character, Liara T’Soni, presented an additional contribution to BioWare’s romantic variety by being an Asari, a netrois or ‘mono-gendered’ alien species that, according to in-game lore, produces only females. If followed consequently, Liara’s romantic sub-plot includes sexual intercourse between her and the main character, albeit not graphically explicit.

The Liara T’Soni romantic sub-plot also led to public reactions that can be seen as indicators of a growing relatedness between video games, fan communities and social discourses when it comes to matters of sexual identity. While the game was well received by fans (spawning two successful sequels to date), it was soon met with opposing forces. Blogger Kevin McCullough, for instance, voiced his concern as follows in a widely received article:

„It’s called ‚Mass Effect‘ and it allows its players – universally male no doubt – to engage in the most realistic sex acts ever conceived. One can custom design the shape, form, bodies, race, hair style, breast size of the images they wish to ‚engage‘ and then watch in crystal clear, LCD, 54 inch screen, HD clarity as the video game ‚persons‘ hump in every form, format, multiple, gender-oriented possibility they can think of.“ 5Kevin McCullough: “The ‘Sex-Box’ Race for President”, Townhall.com, 2008. Web. Accessed 10/28/2014.

Although this statement was soon proven highly inaccurate as the game presents neither explicit sexual content nor the details in custom design referred to in the quote, it is nonetheless highly interesting both in the assumptions that it makes and the force that they are delivered with, not lastly the assumption that the vast majority of gamers is male and heterosexual.

Just as interesting is the short-term ban that the Singaporean government put on Mass Effect due to the presentation of same-sex romance in 2007 6Cf. Emma Boyes: “Singapore bans Mass Effect”, GameSpot, 2007. Web. Accessed 10/28/2014.. The ban was lifted shortly thereafter but nonetheless highlights the socio­economic impact of this change in RPG romance culture.

Dragon Age: Origins (2009) presented another variant of the ‘1-each-plus-x’ romance equation by introducing a male character, Zevran, who can be wooed by both male and female characters.

All later romantic developments in BioWare’s RPGs are a matter of quantity rather than quality. Those game series that are still actively pursued (such as the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series) appear to continue along the path set by their predecessors. In 2011, Dragon Age II appeared as the first of BioWare’s RPGs in which being a romantic option was, among the game’s companion characters, the rule rather than an exception. It also contained multiple characters that weren’t predetermined to be romanceable by any one gender in particular. In the same year, BioWare expressed their intent to maintain the possibility for “[s]ame gender romances with companion characters” 7cf. Stephen Reid, quote retrieved via SWTOR-LIFE.com, 2011. Web. Accessed 10/28/2014 in the online multiplayer RPG Star Wars: The Old Rebublic (2011).

Trouble in Paradise

In spite of the instances of public backlash (as demonstrated by the reactions towards Mass Effect), the BioWare RPGs show a distinct move towards plurality in the presentation of sexual orientation. It is clear that any instances of this plurality are still presented as offshoots from the ‘standard’ of monogamous heterosexuality, and in many cases, these offshoots can be interpreted as erotic fan service aimed towards heterosexual gamers, such as the presentation of lesbian or bisexual characters. Even in this light though, there does seem to be an explicit desire to expand the range of romantic opportunities towards other forms of sexuality, as is indicated by the bisexual male character in Dragon Age.

Still, the fact remains that BioWare’s games, much like any computer RPGs for which BioWare’s may serve as an example, present their players with a number of categorical choices from which to pick their characters’ sexual and gender identity. Whether these categories correspond to a strict heteronormative discourse or one that allows for queer romance won’t change the problem that the player does not generate their intended sex and gender attributes as a volitional process, but rather through accepting an option from a limited pool of possibilities. BioWare can hardly be blamed for this predicament; it is rather a problem inherent to the medial makeup of video games in general. In fact, BioWare’s (arguable) openness in expanding their games’ romances changes nothing about the fact that it is an openness necessarily limited to the game’s built-in options.

If one accepts the notion of any video game’s inherent limitation when it comes to granting its player completely free choice, then it is no surprise that the gender discourse pertaining to video games has not changed in any significant manner since the 1990s 8Cf. Wiemker/Wimmer: “Computerspielkulturen.”, p. 129. See also Henry Jenkins/Justine Cassell: “From Quake Grrls to Desperate Houswives: a Decade of Gender and Computergames”, in Y. B. Kafai et al. (eds.): Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming. Cambridge: MIT Press 2008, pp. 5-20.. On the one hand, Schindler 9Cf. Friedemann Schindler: “Super Mario und Super Marion”, p. 21. observes a reduction in the dominance of male main characters as early as 1996, including those playable by gamers, and Shaw 10Cf. Adrienne Shaw: “Putting the Gay in Games: Cultural Production and GLBT Content in Video Games”, in Games and Culture 4. 2009, pp. 228-253, here 234f. as well as Zaremba 11Cf. Jutta Zaremba: “’Sie will doch nur spielen’ – Von Cyber-Heldinnen und Gamerinnen-Kulturen”, in T. Beve/H. Zapf: Wie wir spielen, was wir werden. Computerspiele in unserer Gesellschaft. Konstanz: UVK 2009, pp. 281-292, here p. 286f. note the increased presence of female and transgender gaming groups. On the other hand, Beasley and Collins Standley 12Cf. Berrin Beasley/Tracy Collins Standley: “Shirts vs. Skins: Clothing as an Indicator of Gender Role Stereotyping in Video Games”, in Mass Communication & Society 5.3. 2002, pp. 279-293, here p. 286f. as well as Grapenthin 13Cf. Hella Grapenthin: “Geschlechterbilder in Computer- und Videospielen”, in Beve/Zapf (eds.): Wie wir spielen, was wir werden, pp. 161-184, here p. 161f. document a persistent underrepresentation and submissiveness of female characters in the vast majority of commercial video games.

A pessimistic, but reasonable interpretation of this ambivalence would be that while it does become easier for gamers to experiment with a more expanded range of romantic behavior than it used to be, this expansion is not accompanied by any real change in the discourse hierarchy. The bitter truth of this absence of any kind of egalitarian progress is just now being demonstrated: In 2013, game designer Zoe Quinn started receiving what would become a string of threats towards her person. This massive online campaign against Quinn was initiated by false claims of herself having entertained a sexual relationship with a journalist in exchange for a favorable review of her game Depression Quest 14Cf. Simon Parkin: “Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest”, in The New Yorker. 2014. Web. Accessed 12/03/2014.; in 2014, pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian, who had repeatedly spoken out against anti-feminist trends in gaming, had to cancel a talk at Utah State University due to the threat of a massacre if she appeared. 15Cf. Alex Hern: “Feminist games critic cancels talk after terror threat”, in The Guardian. 2014. Web. Accessed 10/29/2014. Game designer Brianna Wu fled her home after having received several graphic threats, including of murder and rape 16Cf. Stephen Totilo: “Another Woman In Gaming Flees Home Following Death Threats”, in Kotaku. 2014. Web. Accessed 10/29/2014. – the threats being a reaction to Wu’s own article about the harassment of women in gaming. 17Brianna Wu: “No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry”, in Polygon. 2014. Web. Accessed 10/29/2014.

Considering that these were not at all solitary instances, the outlook for representations of sexuality and gender in video games seems dire indeed. However, just as a video games’ specific mediality can function as a natural restriction of free expansion, it is my conviction that this very same mediality can also be used to counteract that dynamic, as I intend to demonstrate.

Gamer, love thyself!

I have argued in a different context that any video game can only thrive and function when it is introduced into the interactive process of cybernetic observation 18Cf. Tom Reiss: “Let’s Play: Tentative Überlegungen zur Ästhetik eines Online-Fanomens”, in Vera Cuntz-Leng (ed.) Creative Crowds, pp. 136-156, here p. 153f.. Any game is, when seen only by itself, removed from the context of somebody playing it, deficient – a multitude of presentations that are representations only in potentia.

Wiemker and Wimmer point out that especially among gamers, there are a number of methods of appropriation that serve as an emotive connection to the game, and that considerably transcend the experience intended or manufactured by the game’s developers 19Cf. Wiemker/Wimmer: “Computerspielkulturen”, p. 124.. These methods of appropriation are legion – they range from communicative methods such as the forming of websites and forums on which the games are discussed and help is offered; over custom-designed content such as levels, maps, characters, interactions and so forth; to, finally, fully intersubjective encounters with a game. Those can take the form of online or offline multiplayer sessions, the forming of social groups around and inside a game (such as clans or guilds) or, in a more complex form, as ‘Let’s Play’-videos or other kinds of online viding (for instance machinimas).

According to Wiemker and Wimmer 20Cf. ibid, p. 125., the appropriation of a game can be divided into two phases. First, the gamers prepare the broadening of a game’s context by enhancing their aesthetical distance to it, thereby questioning its wholeness 21Cf. James Newman: “Social Gaming and the Culture of Videogames. Competition and Collaboration on and off Screen”, in James Newman (ed.): Videogames. London/New York: Routledge 2004, pp. 145-162, here p. 148.. In a next step, the gamers then take up a position of authorship themselves by actively modifying a game 22Cf. Andrew Burn: “Reworking the text: Online fandom”, in Dianne Carr et al. (eds.): Computer Games: Text, Narrative and Play. Cambridge: Polity 2006, pp. 88-102, here p. 100..

Examples for these methods of appropriation can be found left and right, especially when it comes to character customization in video games, which of course includes romance. All of BioWare’s RPGs can be supplied with any number of additional characters to romance, as well as changed to allow for more variation when it comes to whom to romance, or simply ‘romantify’ the existing characters and interactions; open game testing and crowd­funded projects are getting increasingly popular, and it is in those that we find, yet again, traces of the fandom’s romantic influence. In 2012 and 2013, respectively, ‘overhauled’ versions of Baldur’s Gate and its successor game were published as crowd funding projects – with one of the major additions being additional characters, including Hexxat, an optional party member romanceable only by female characters.

These are instances in which the kind of romance found in a game depend more on the players’ participation than on the games itself. Of course, this kind of actualized potential only succeeds whenever the methods are used socially. The balances between commercial interests, entertainment, fandom and legal framing here come into play as a complex aesthetic field that goes far beyond the simple equation of production and reception – and one that can only exist in a globally networked form that allows for the formation of vocal online fandoms, as Hector Postigo proposes:

„The values of Web 2.0, especially within those architectures that easily facilitate the commoditization of the users and activities therein, are very much market values. Given this set of normative and functional values and their ability to coexist with other ‘values’, within the same system of information production, one must ask what happens in practice when the various normative and functional values of a system come into contact with each other.“ 23Hector Postigo: “Questioning the Web 2.0 Discourse: Social Roles, Production, Values, and the Case of the Human Rights Portal”, in The Information Society 27. 2011, pp. 181-193, here p. 186.

This brings us back to the distinction between presentation and representation. A game’s potential for social awareness, criticism, and eventually influence is purely a matter of representation. This means that a truly open depiction of sexuality and romance needs to be not only present(ed) in the game, but represented through community interaction – whether that community creates it itself or interactively accepts and thusly re-presents its presence.

Alain Badiou defines presentation as “’to belong to a situation’ [which] means: to be presented by that situation, to be one of the element it structures.” 24Alain Badiou: Being and Event. New York: Continuum, p. 102. Representation, on the other hand, refers to an entity that is not only factually present in the respective situation, but also acknowledged by it. To be represented, “’to be included in a situation’ means: to be counted by the state of the situation.” 25Ibid. Accordingly, any given entity can assume one of three states in the order of its situation:

„I made a general distinction between three types of relation to the situational integrity of the one-effect (taking both belonging and inclusion into consideration): normality (to be presented and represented); singularity (to be presented but not represented); excrescence (to be represented but not presented). Obviously what remains is the void, which is neither presented nor represented.“ 26Ibid, p. 108.

In order for sexuality and gender issues to become ‘normality’ in gaming as opposed to any number of ‘singularities’, the point of interest is not whether or not progress happens in games; the point of interest is not even primarily how many gamers of which gender play what characters and romance which NPCs. Those are matters of presentation and thusly below the threshold of any social interest.

A state of re-presentation, on the other hand, is reached with gamers not being content with whatever necessarily limited options the game presents them with; but rather exploring a game’s options, taking them out of the game, dissecting them, discussing them, re-inserting them and interactively bringing individual meaning to them. This goes especially for those fan-based methods that actively generate content and representation, such as ‘Let’s Play’ videos and generally all forms of vidding, as Francesca Coppa argues:

„Vidding is a form of collaborative critical thinking. While vidders make an infinite variety of arguments about the television shows and films they love – theorizing about characters, fleshing out relationships, emphasizing homoeroticsm, picking apart nuances of plot and theme – these arguments frequently articulate alternative perspectives, particularly in terms of gender and sexuality.“ 27Francesca Coppa: “Women, Star Trek and the Early Development of Fannish Vidding”, in Transformative Works and Cultures 1. 2008.

‘Let’s Play’ videos (or, in short, LPs) are screen captured videos of various computer games that are accompanied by the player’s commentary – not for purposes of information or advertising, but for the sake of the player’s and their audiences’ enjoyment. One of those players (in this case, LPers) presents a good example for the possibilities of fan-generated content broadening a video game’s take on sexuality and romance in a truly interactive manner.

The LPer in question, who goes by the YouTube alias ‘mynameisnotlilly’, has recorded and uploaded over 2.000 videos, averaging at around 10 minutes each, that document the adventures of the elven mage Lilly Black. With Lilly as the main character, ‘mynameisnotlilly’ plays through multiple BioWare games in an attempt to explore the games’ possibilities when confronted with a complex character. One point of complexity is Lilly’s same-sex orientation, which is not supported by the games’ mechanics as such. ‘Mynameisnotlilly’, however, bypasses this particular obstacle on the level of representation, which in this case means through individually generated narrative and content. This user-generated content consists mostly of the user’s own narrative during gameplay, but extends to machinima-style cinematics as well as fully individual artwork and even drawings supplied by his audience – the fandom’s fandom, if one remembers the cybernetic structure I was referring to earlier.

In this fashion, Lilly Black gets to be witnessed flirting with female party members, pondering her romantic circumstances and reflect her respective social position – with none of this stopping at the level of mere presentation, because her particular sexuality is not even presented in the game in the first place. Instead, it gets elevated to a representative level, where it is not only a legitimate part of the game but also actualized – both as an actively, creatively played game and as an object of interactive entertainment and discussion via YouTube.

Check, Please

At first glance, romance in gaming seems to be in dire straits – much as gender in gaming in general. We have seen that when it comes to egalitarian impulses and representative developments, the context of video games moves slow at best.

At the same time, shameful problems like the treatment of outspoken gender activists in gaming point to an aspect of the problem that may well be their very solution – an aspect specifically important to role-playing games like BioWare’s.

Because in the end, games need to be played by people. And people will find ways to enhance their possibilities through socio-aesthetical means. By elevating games out of a narrow field of production and reception and introducing an aesthetical, i.e. social component – for instance via modding or Let’s Plays – gamers will eventually shape the field of games, as is beautifully illustrated in this remark by Andrew Burn:

„Engagement with the game does not finish when the game session ends and the computer or console is switched off. Players continue to think about, imagine, or even dream about, the events, landscapes, and characters of the game; and particularly commited fans go further, joining online communities of fans, and contributing to message boards, art galleries, writing groups, and other forms of expansive embroidery of the game and its components.“ 28Andrew Burn: “Reworking the text”, p. 88.

As games continue their way into the social and economical mainstream, they will need to be subjected to the necessary discussions and conflicts of that mainstream. This prominently includes the debate about the state of gender equality in gaming. And it will be just as necessary for the gaming fandom and communities to participate in this crucial debate – as demonstrated above, they have the means to do so.

Bibliography

Games:

Baldur’s Gate. BioWare. 1998.
Baldur’s Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast. BioWare. 1999.
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. Overhaul Games. 2012.
Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn. BioWare. 2000.
Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. BioWare. 2001.
Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition. Overhaul Games. 2013.
Dragon Age: Origins. BioWare/Edge of Reality. 2009.
Dragon Age II. BioWare. 2011.
Jade Empire. BioWare. 2005.
Mass Effect. BioWare. 2007.
Neverwinter Nights. BioWare. 2002.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. BioWare/Aspyr. 2003.
Star Wars: The Old Republic. BioWare. 2011.

Literature:

Badiou, Alain: Being and Event. New York: Continuum.
Beasley, Berrin/Tracy Collins Standley: “Shirts vs. Skins: Clothing as an Indicator of Gender Role Stereotyping in Video Games”, in Mass Communication & Society 5.3. 2002, pp. 279-293.
Boyes, Emma: “Singapore bans Mass Effect”, GameSpot, 2007. Web. Accessed 10/28/2014. URL: http://www.gamespot.com/articles/singapore-bans-mass-effect/1100-6182936/
Burn, Andrew: “Reworking the text: Online fandom”, in Dianne Carr et al. (eds.): Computer Games: Text, Narrative and Play. Cambridge: Polity 2006, pp. 88-102.
Francesca Coppa: “Women, Star Trek and the Early Development of Fannish Vidding”, in Transformative Works and Cultures 1. 2008.
Grapenthin, Hella: “Geschlechterbilder in Computer- und Videospielen”, in T. Beve/H. Zapf: Wie wir spielen, was wir werden. Computerspiele in unserer Gesellschaft. Konstanz: UVK 2009, pp. 161-184.
Hern, Alex: “Feminist games critic cancels talk after terror threat”, in The Guardian. 2014. Web. Accessed 10/29/2014. URL: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/15/anita-sarkeesian-feminist-games-critic-cancels-talk?CMP=fb_gu
Jenkins, Henry/Justine Cassell: “From Quake Grrls to Desperate Houswives: a Decade of Gender and Computergames”, in Y. B. Kafai et al. (eds.): Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming. Cambridge: MIT Press 2008, pp. 5-20.
McCullough, Kevin: “The ‘Sex-Box’ Race for President”, Townhall.com, 2008. Web. Accessed 10/28/2014. URL: http://web.archive.org/web/20080116082011/http://www.townhall.com/columnists/KevinMcCullough/2008/01/13/the_sex-box_race_for_president
Newman, James: “Social Gaming and the Culture of Videogames. Competition and Collaboration on and off Screen”, in James Newman (ed.): Videogames. London/New York: Routledge 2004, pp. 145-162.
Parkin, Simon: “Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest”, in The New Yorker. 2014. Web. Accessed 12/03/2014. URL: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/zoe-quinns-depression-quest
Postigo, Hector: “Questioning the Web 2.0 Discourse: Social Roles, Production, Values, and the Case of the Human Rights Portal”, in The Information Society 27. 2011, pp. 181-193.
Reid, Stephen, quote retrieved via SWTOR-LIFE.com, 2011. Web. Accessed 10/28/2014. URL: http://www.swtor-life.com/game-mechanics/same-gender-romance-options-to-be-included-in-swtor-post-launch/3691/
Reiss, Tom: “Let’s Play: Tentative Überlegungen zur Ästhetik eines Online-Fanomens”, in Vera Cuntz-Leng (Hg.): Creative Crowds. Perspektiven der Fanforschung im deutschsprachigen Raum. Darmstadt: Büchner 2014 pp. 136-156.
Schindler, Friedemann: “Super Mario und Super Marion. Geschlechtsrollen in Computer- und Videospielen”, in Medien Praktisch 3, 1996, pp. 21-25.
Shaw, Adrienne: “Putting the Gay in Games: Cultural Production and GLBT Content in Video Games”, in Games and Culture 4. 2009, pp. 228-253.
Totilo, Stephen: “Another Woman In Gaming Flees Home Following Death Threats”, in Kotaku. 2014. Web. Accessed 10/29/2014. URL: http://kotaku.com/another-woman-in-gaming-flees-home-following-death-thre-1645280338
Wiemker, Markus/Jeffrey Wimmer: “Computerspielkulturen. Praktiken der Aneignung durch Computerspielfans”, in Vera Cuntz-Leng (Hg.): Creative Crowds. Perspektiven der Fanforschung im deutschsprachigen Raum. Darmstadt: Büchner 2014, pp. 113-135.
Wu, Brianna: “No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry”, in Polygon. 2014. Web. Accessed 10/29/2014. URL: http://www.polygon.com/2014/7/22/5926193/women-gaming-harassment
Zaremba, Jutta: “’Sie will doch nur spielen’ – Von Cyber-Heldinnen und Gamerinnen-Kulturen”, in T. Beve/H. Zapf: Wie wir spielen, was wir werden. Computerspiele in unserer Gesellschaft. Konstanz: UVK 2009, pp. 281-292.

Images:

Mass Effect Fanart URL: http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2011/143/9/d/me__always_on_my_mind_by_bagoflimbs-d3h0q72.png

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1. The matter of the canonization of video games is another fascinating issue altogether, especially considering generational shifts. It is, however, a matter best left to concentrated research efforts, a purpose for which I would like to recommend Jannidis, Fotis: “Wertungen und Kanonisierungen von Computerspielen”, in Matthias Beilein/Claudia Stockinger/Simone Winko (eds.): Kanon, Wertung und Vermittlung. Literatur in der Wissensgesellschaft. Berlin/Boston, MA: de Gruyter 2012, pp. 321-344.
2. cf. Markus Wiemker/Jeffrey Wimmer: “Computerspielkulturen. Praktiken der Aneignung durch Computerspielfans”, in Vera Cuntz-Leng (ed.): Creative Crowds. Perspektiven der Fanforschung im deutschsprachigen Raum. Darmstadt: Büchner 2014, pp. 113-135, here p. 116.
3. cf. ibid.
4. cf. Friedemann Schindler: “Super Mario und Super Marion. Geschlechtsrollen in Computer- und Videospielen”, in Medien Praktisch 3, 1996, pp. 21-25, here 21.
5. Kevin McCullough: “The ‘Sex-Box’ Race for President”, Townhall.com, 2008. Web. Accessed 10/28/2014.
6. Cf. Emma Boyes: “Singapore bans Mass Effect”, GameSpot, 2007. Web. Accessed 10/28/2014.
7. cf. Stephen Reid, quote retrieved via SWTOR-LIFE.com, 2011. Web. Accessed 10/28/2014
8. Cf. Wiemker/Wimmer: “Computerspielkulturen.”, p. 129. See also Henry Jenkins/Justine Cassell: “From Quake Grrls to Desperate Houswives: a Decade of Gender and Computergames”, in Y. B. Kafai et al. (eds.): Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming. Cambridge: MIT Press 2008, pp. 5-20.
9. Cf. Friedemann Schindler: “Super Mario und Super Marion”, p. 21.
10. Cf. Adrienne Shaw: “Putting the Gay in Games: Cultural Production and GLBT Content in Video Games”, in Games and Culture 4. 2009, pp. 228-253, here 234f.
11. Cf. Jutta Zaremba: “’Sie will doch nur spielen’ – Von Cyber-Heldinnen und Gamerinnen-Kulturen”, in T. Beve/H. Zapf: Wie wir spielen, was wir werden. Computerspiele in unserer Gesellschaft. Konstanz: UVK 2009, pp. 281-292, here p. 286f.
12. Cf. Berrin Beasley/Tracy Collins Standley: “Shirts vs. Skins: Clothing as an Indicator of Gender Role Stereotyping in Video Games”, in Mass Communication & Society 5.3. 2002, pp. 279-293, here p. 286f.
13. Cf. Hella Grapenthin: “Geschlechterbilder in Computer- und Videospielen”, in Beve/Zapf (eds.): Wie wir spielen, was wir werden, pp. 161-184, here p. 161f.
14. Cf. Simon Parkin: “Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest”, in The New Yorker. 2014. Web. Accessed 12/03/2014.
15. Cf. Alex Hern: “Feminist games critic cancels talk after terror threat”, in The Guardian. 2014. Web. Accessed 10/29/2014.
16. Cf. Stephen Totilo: “Another Woman In Gaming Flees Home Following Death Threats”, in Kotaku. 2014. Web. Accessed 10/29/2014.
17. Brianna Wu: “No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry”, in Polygon. 2014. Web. Accessed 10/29/2014.
18. Cf. Tom Reiss: “Let’s Play: Tentative Überlegungen zur Ästhetik eines Online-Fanomens”, in Vera Cuntz-Leng (ed.) Creative Crowds, pp. 136-156, here p. 153f.
19. Cf. Wiemker/Wimmer: “Computerspielkulturen”, p. 124.
20. Cf. ibid, p. 125.
21. Cf. James Newman: “Social Gaming and the Culture of Videogames. Competition and Collaboration on and off Screen”, in James Newman (ed.): Videogames. London/New York: Routledge 2004, pp. 145-162, here p. 148.
22. Cf. Andrew Burn: “Reworking the text: Online fandom”, in Dianne Carr et al. (eds.): Computer Games: Text, Narrative and Play. Cambridge: Polity 2006, pp. 88-102, here p. 100.
23. Hector Postigo: “Questioning the Web 2.0 Discourse: Social Roles, Production, Values, and the Case of the Human Rights Portal”, in The Information Society 27. 2011, pp. 181-193, here p. 186.
24. Alain Badiou: Being and Event. New York: Continuum, p. 102.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid, p. 108.
27. Francesca Coppa: “Women, Star Trek and the Early Development of Fannish Vidding”, in Transformative Works and Cultures 1. 2008.
28. Andrew Burn: “Reworking the text”, p. 88.

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: Role-playing Romances and the Fantasies of Fans. 15.12.2014. Zugriff: 12.11.2019 - 14:02.

Tom Reiss

Tom Reiss hat in München Neuere deutsche Literatur, Komparatistik und Linguistik studiert. Er arbeitet zur Zeit an seinem Dissertationsprojekt über eine Semiotik des Phantastischen, und hat essayistische sowie wissenschaftliche Texte zu den Themen Phantastik, Postmodernismus, (post)Kolonialismus, Fanforschung, Übersetzung und Science Fiction veröffentlicht. Er ist Redakteur beim online-Journal "Medienobservationen" sowie bei "Hinterland", dem Magazin des Bayerischen Flüchtlingsrats.