Over the last couple of weeks especially, it seems as though the question of how gender and sexuality affect the world of videogaming has been one of the central themes of both our readings as well as our class discussions. The fact that videogame content is created by, for, and used by a predominantly male, heterosexual audience should no longer surprise any of us. Professor Taylor shared with us her views on how masculinity, both of the traditional hegemonic and alternative ‘geek’ variety, plays out in the online and competitive gaming worlds, creating an atmosphere that is frequently very hostile to anyone who comes across as not belonging to one of these virile brands. While she did an excellent job of bringing attention to this phenomenon occurring in videogaming, the answer to why it doesn’t cease to exist in a time when more and more women and people of all sexualities are logging in and playing remained elusive to me. I don’t think it was until reading the chapter “Masculinity, Structure, and Play in Videogames” from Derek Burrill’s book Die Tryin’ that I was provided with a satisfactory explanation for the continuance of aggressive male play in the online gaming sphere.
Before going on, I think it is important to note that on the whole I found Burrill’s points to be rather poor and insubstantial, relying almost purely upon his own diagnosis of the three games he studied, and in which he forces them into stereotypical molds provided entirely by earlier models of psychoanalysis. However, ignoring his psychoanalytic game reviews, he brings up one idea early on in his chapter that I find to be highly insightful, as well as very applicable to what we have been discussing. His theory that “masculinity operates under two discourses: structural and dramaturgical” (74), works very well in explaining why aggressive male behavior continues to thrive in videogaming. In Burrill’s studies, he focused exclusively on one-player games, where the dramatic aspect of his dichotomous model of masculinity is expressed only through the player performing the role of the hypermasculine avatar in a world also designed to encourage violent male action. However, I believe that this adoption of the violent male persona could carry beyond the mere game play, and affect the way a player would treat and address others in an online or multiplayer setting as well. As we have discussed in class, fear of change is a powerful motivator for the players of videogames, a traditionally male group, to be a little nasty to outsiders coming into their domain, but coupling that with the machismo that is adopted when playing violent games, that could be the reason for the aggressive, sexist, and loud nature of some online gamers.
Such aggression and hate speech that is often seen online and at competitions would be almost unimaginable in ordinary human to human interactions, suggesting there is some additional motivator at work egging players on. Could it be that the very structure of the games themselves are that selfsame motivation?