School of Social Sciences

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Sian Tomkinson

Start date

Feb 2015

Submission date

Feb 2019

Sian Tomkinson


Affect, Gender, and Play: why 'women are too hard to animate'.


Since the 1970s there has been a steadily increasing number of women playing video games and identifying as gamers. However, despite around fifty percent of gamers in countries such as Australia, the US, and UK being female, video games are still very much gendered in society as a principally male activity. As a result the industry often targets a majority male audience. Furthermore, the increase of women has resulted in tension between gamers, particularly visible through recent events such as Gamergate in 2014, when several women in the game industry were harassed online by gamers, including through death threats; particularly game developer Zoe Quinn.

This research examines this tension, which revolves around the gendering of video game communities and identities, and uses the work of Gilles Deleuze as one key focal point in examining that tension A principal reason for this is because Deleuze’s work has more recently been fruitfully applied to media as diverse as books, film, and music, yet little of his work has been applied to games, even though games are a principal media form and industry of the digital age.

Why my research is important

Very few people have examined the distinction between content and form in video games, and even fewer have examined the distinction between form and content in relation to gender. Deleuze’s work especially on the distinction between modes of expression and content is particularly important here. Furthermore, there is a relationship in games between Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of flow and video game content. Although flow has been examined in relation to immersion, there has not yet been substantial investigation into content and flow in the context of interactive media such as games. Lastly, these issues need to be discussed in relation to communities of play, that is, it accepts as a central element the social context that games form, as well as form part of.


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