Sunday, February 26, 2012

Girl Gamers

How do women use ICT's for their own empowerment?

The above picture is the group of girls known as Frag Dolls
A Frag Doll (according to the Frag Doll website) is "a gamer girl with the skills to dominate in multiplayer shooters.  An unabashedly geeky female who is proud to love games and geek culture."

When I got to the Gender and Sexuality section in the Nayar reading I immediately though about Frag Dolls.  Now, I am not a female gamer (unless you count my mad skills with MarioKart) and the only reason I know about the Frag Dolls is because I know an actual female gamer who did her senior research on girl gamers.

Her small study affirmed what Nayar said about the role of women in the making of technology.  Because women are "rarely involved with the design and research that create the technology" (Nayar, p. 18), the most popular video games are not usually designed with a female target audience in mind and girl gamers are surrounded by a lot of negative/derogatory feedback from those individuals (primarily male) in the gaming cyberculture.

The mission of the Frag Dolls is to "promote video games and represent the presence of women in the game industry" (Frag Dolls, 2012).  These girls "are known not only for being skilled gamers in multiple games, but for their advocacy of female gamers" (Frag Dolls, 2012).  Which now brings me to my thoughts about representation.

According to Nayar, "stereotypes from the real world pervade even passing, camp, and drag on the Internet, thus suggesting that even cyberspace is as gendered as the real world" (p. 18)  It's great that a group of females are standing up for other females in the gaming world but what are they actually saying about female gamers?

The Frag Dolls are using information and communication technologies as an advocate for female gamers.  Nayar also said that cyberculture activism runs the risk of remaining "at the level of the virtual, with little or no impact upon the real world" (p. 12) and can create a false sense of empowerment.  The girl who I talked about earlier who did the study on female gamers said that the main insults male gamers gave her when she (or her female friends) would play multiplayer games, were insults about her possible appearance and/or her role in life.  Players would call her a "fat ugly bitch," or a  "dog-faced whore" or tell her to "get back to the kitchen where she belongs."  This same girl also did a survey that she distributed to only males about their perceptions of female gamers, and nearly all of the males in the study indicated the prevailing sentiment that female gamers were most likely unattractive.

I am connecting this thought process to last week's readings and class conversation, but if anyone hadn't noticed already, the Frag Dolls are "hot," for lack of a better descriptor.  I don't see one greasy pimple or nerdy cowlick on their flawless "geeky" forms.  Now, this is where it gets confusing because the Frag Dolls are "breaking" the stereotype in the gaming cyberculture that female gamers are "unattractive" however by doing this they are are inadvertently reinforcing the gendered stereotypes (even in the virtual gaming world where people probably don't see each others faces that often) that your appearance matters.  As a female you can be a successful gamer and look totally sexual and feminine while doing it.  Empowered?


  1. Hi Rebekah,

    I found your article interesting, as I was also pondering Nayar's comments about how stereotypes that exist within reality are perpetuated through networked media and as we discussed last week, through mass media as well). However, I do find it curious that the Frag Dolls call themselves "Dolls," which not only refers to the cultural stereotype that girls play with dolls, but also it has been used as a term (in the past) to refer to a woman (not necessarily crude, but it depends on how you view it). The Frag Dolls claim to have gotten the term doll from the following definition: "rag·doll physics /ragdol fiziks/ n. 1 a program allowing videogame characters to react with realistic body and skeletal physics," which displays their knowledge of video game animations, but still in some ways connotes childish femininity.

    Also while reading Nayar's article I pondered the stereotypes of minorities in video games, and his conclusion that cyberspace is just as "raced" as reality. Nayar wrote that cultural anxiety is reflected in cyberspace when "there is a concomitant cultural anxiety about authenticity. That is, in times of uncertain identities, stereotypes of 'authentic,' unchanging, stable 'natives' or the Other racial proliferate" (p. 15). I came across an interesting article from one gamer person's blog, which ponders reasons for "why we are not there yet" in regards to minority representation in video games. ( He proposes this could be due in part to the fact that most video game designers are white males who create characters to look like themselves. I'd say he makes a good point and this might also account for some of the reasons why minority game characters are displayed in such dramatically stereotypical roles. If we had more minority game designers would that change anything? If there were more minority web designers would that change anything in relation to networked media?

  2. The gaming phenom is very interesting to me. I'm not a gamer - unless "words with friends" counts. While reading the gaming section of Nayar's article, I was reminded of this TED video I saw last spring. It is about 20 minutes, but it is worth a look.

    In the video, Jane McGonigal is a designer and she talks about how gaming improves the world. She asks the question, "why doesn't the real world work like an online game?"

    Dovetailing off that, I wonder if we can truly have conversation while gaming? Do we have conversations anymore? Yes, there is interaction, but is that conversation?

    Example, several of my family members were in the same room on Saturday night, all playing each other in "words with friends." Another friends dropped by, saw them and said, "why don't you guys just play Scrabble?" Why, indeed.