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Gaming at the Edge

Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture

2014
Author:

Adrienne Shaw

Gaming at the Edge

A major new analysis of the representation of marginalized groups in video games

Adrienne Shaw argues that video game players experience race, gender, and sexuality concurrently, revealing how representation comes to matter to participants and considering the high stakes in politics of representation debates. She finds new insight on the edge of media consumption with the invisible, marginalized gamers who are surprising in both their numbers and their influence in mainstream gamer culture.

Gaming at the Edge offers a fantastic intervention into not only gaming, but media studies more broadly. Adrienne Shaw astutely argues that our approach to understanding representation in games has been far too simplistic and, through her careful fieldwork, offers a rich framework for future studies. This is an important book for not only those interested in gaming, but anyone thinking about the complexities of representation and media.

T.L. Taylor, MIT

Video games have long been seen as the exclusive territory of young, heterosexual white males. In a media landscape dominated by such gamers, players who do not fit this mold, including women, people of color, and LGBT people, are often brutalized in forums and in public channels in online play. Discussion of representation of such groups in games has frequently been limited and cursory. In contrast, Gaming at the Edge builds on feminist, queer, and postcolonial theories of identity and draws on qualitative audience research methods to make sense of how representation comes to matter.

In Gaming at the Edge, Adrienne Shaw argues that video game players experience race, gender, and sexuality concurrently. She asks: How do players identify with characters? How do they separate identification and interactivity? What is the role of fantasy in representation? What is the importance of understanding market logic? In addressing these questions Shaw reveals how representation comes to matter to participants and offers a perceptive consideration of the high stakes in politics of representation debates.

Putting forth a framework for talking about representation, difference, and diversity in an era in which user-generated content, individualized media consumption, and the blurring of producer/consumer roles have lessened the utility of traditional models of media representation analysis, Shaw finds new insight on the edge of media consumption with the invisible, marginalized gamers who are surprising in both their numbers and their influence in mainstream gamer culture.

Awards

International Communication Association—Popular Communication Division’s Outstanding Book

Gaming at the Edge

Adrienne Shaw is assistant professor of media studies and production at Temple University.

Gaming at the Edge

Gaming at the Edge offers a fantastic intervention into not only gaming, but media studies more broadly. Adrienne Shaw astutely argues that our approach to understanding representation in games has been far too simplistic and, through her careful fieldwork, offers a rich framework for future studies. This is an important book for not only those interested in gaming, but anyone thinking about the complexities of representation and media.

T.L. Taylor, MIT

Gaming at the Edge is the book that video game studies needs right now. Adrienne Shaw explodes the notion that video game's gender and race problems will be solved by greater representation of these groups.

Lisa Nakamura, author of Race After the Internet

Straight-forward, thoroughly argued and well-illustrated.

Digital Culture and Education

In Gaming at the Edge, Shaw offers an astute critique of come of the common wisdom about video games, their players, and representation.

Women’s Review of Books

This is an excellent, well-researched, and well-argued text that would be welcomed by any researcher or designer interested in more fully understanding the complexities of how identity relates to the world of games and play.

American Journal of Play

Scholars of gender, game studies, or media studies more generally would find Gaming at the Edge to be a critical and thought-provoking analysis of race, gender, and sexuality in video games.

Contemporary Sociology

Shaw's book is valuable for the study of representation across media and should be required reading on the politics, possibilities, and problems of media representation.

Communication, Culture & Critique

Shaw’s powerful words evoke utopian visions of inclusivity and intersubjectivity that are sure to serve as productive forces of inspiration in a number of diverse disciplines.

The Geek Anthropologist

Shaw’s Gaming at the Edge is both accessible and academic, and takes a much-needed critical, sociopolitical stance on the importance of diversity and inclusion in video games.

The Learned Fangirl

Shaw is extremely skilled at conveying complex and important concepts in an understandable and engrossing way.

International Journal of Communication

Gaming at the Edge

Contents

Preface

Introduction. Clichés versus Women: Moving beyond Sexy Sidekicks and Damsels in Distress

1. From Custer’s Revenge and Mario to Fable and Fallout: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Digital Games
2. Does Anyone Really Identify with Lara Croft? Unpacking Identification in Video Games
3. He Could Be a Bunny Rabbit for All I Care! How We Connect with Characters and Avatars
4. When and Why Representation Matters to Gamers: Realism versus Escapism

Conclusion: A Future Free of Dickwolves

Acknowledgments
Notes
Gameography
Bibliography
Index

Gaming at the Edge

UMP blog: #INeedDiverseGames and why representation in games matters

After years of trying to explain my book, Gaming at the Edge, in a sound byte, I eventually boiled it down to the following: 1) players don’t care that much about representation in games, and 2) that’s a good argument for more diversity in games. In truth, this was actually a bit of a lie on my part. In my research I have found not so much that people don't care about representation, but rather they don’t always care in the way they are often expected to care.