Over the course of a year we will collect qualitative data on the representations of gender identity in the twenty-five most popular console games from 2015 in order to plot the various figures — the stereotypes, archetypes and new formations — of gendered identity that digital games enshrine, legitimate, demean and demonize. Our inquiry is guided by concern for the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes in games and seeks to discern: What rhetorical figures of gender identity are deployed in the 25 best-selling games? What is the valence attributed to each figure in the 25 best-selling games? How significant is the presence of differently valued figures in the 25 best-selling games? Feminist rhetorical analysis of the data collected in the qualitative content analysis phase of the project will enable the (re)assembly of various figures of gender identity. We posit that these figures of gender identity are rhetorical constructs that do the work of making sensible specific configurations of sexuality, personality, appearance and performance. These rhetorical figures, then, both constrain and enable how players might enact their own gender identity; they constitute what Foucault calls a “grid of intelligibility,” which Adrienne Shaw explains, both inspire and render intelligible a person’s performance of identity. By charting the various constructions of gender that digital games (re)produce and the valances they are ascribed, the project will determine the touchstones that players accept, reject, negotiate or otherwise use to shape their sense of self.


Gerald Voorhees

Emma Vossen