Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Media Studies


Carol Liebler


feminism, game culture, gender, multiplayer, video game


There is no clear definition of what qualifies as a hardcore game, yet there is significant speculation around who qualifies as a hardcore gamer. Constantly relegated to the casual gaming market, women are assumed to dislike and shy away from hardcore games because of the difficult and competitive form of play such games require. Women are rendered invisible in traditional and competitive gaming because of assumptions and stereotypes surrounding women gamers, dismissal from game developers, and hostility in gaming culture. This research study explores how the invisible women gamers navigate and negotiate their gaming experiences while playing competitive online multiplayer video games. With attention to team-based online, multiplayer, combat, and battle arena games, this study attempts to bridge the gap concerning women gamers and their experiences in highly competitive, violent video games. Utilizing a combination of in-depth qualitative interviews and textual analysis of participant journals, this thesis examines the complex dynamics at work in constructing and defining women's gaming experiences for sixteen female gamers.

Findings reveal that intense power dynamics, exhibited through harassment, discrimination, and hostility, serve to reject, or at best tolerate, women's gender performances. There are many ways women are both denied and forego female gender performances in gaming spaces. Lastly, women actively attempt to distance themselves from the "girl gamer" stereotype while simultaneously imposing it on other women.


Open Access



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