In this study, gendered representation in games is approached through a focus on subjectivity. To date, studies that have addressed representation in games have often drawn on the psychoanalytic theory that has proven so influential within film studies. Yet the limitations of this approach have long been acknowledged by film theorists: it relies on a particular modelling of the relationship between the viewer, the screen, and meaning-making, which entails overlooking (to some degree or other) audience agency and difference.  This is a problem for game analysts, because agency is central to gaming. As a result, accounts of in-game representation that are founded on theories of identification derived from psychoanalytic screen studies scholarship have limited traction.

By focusing on subjectivity, this project can address the same concerns (the politics of gendered representation in games) while more directly acknowledging the playability of games. The conceptualization of subjectivity that is central to this study is informed by feminist media and cultural studies literature, and by research that has applied Foucault’s work to specific realms. In such research, accounts of subject formation in specific cultural and historical contexts have been developed (e.g. sociological literature on education and governmentality). This literature makes it clear that the apparent neutrality associated with privileged bodies (typically white, able, male and heterosexual in the West) remains dependent on the ongoing construction of ‘other’ bodies as marginal, abject, dangerous or deviant.


Diane Carr