GIRL GAMERS?: PLAYER AND INSTITUTIONAL ORIENTATIONS TOWARDS WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN AND AROUND E-SPORTS
Address me as a player, or don’t address me at all. This expression, made by a high performance StarCraft 2 player, grounds this paper. Her statement is suggestive of many players’ experiences around the stagnated characterization of “girl gamers”, and ultimately their identification as one (Beavis & Charles 2007). This significant theme takes its lead from ongoing research on young women who live-stream their high performance computer gameplay on the broadcasting channel Twitch. As players, they are positioned on the margins of e- sports. Meaning they are or have been on the outer edge of organized, institutional scenes of competitive computer game tournaments, which are channels towards financial and socio-cultural benefits (N. Taylor 2009; Taylor, Jenson & de Castell 2009). Benefits can include acquiring prize-winnings or sponsorships, attaining a recognizable public “personality”, or transitioning from “piecemeal” players to career “wage-earning” administrators. Not all players necessarily see the full spectrum of these benefits. Though, when players voice how they run a gauntlet as a gendered object in their path towards elite competition, these realizable benefits start to highlight some of the disparities in those pathways, experiences and results on a foundation of difference (T.L. Taylor 2012).
Four long interviews with mid to high level players starts this exploration around how the “girl gamer” is lived and produced: zooming in on players’ reflections on the dualistic gendering of a slice of their (desired or not) player identity, and their accounts on what that means for their everyday play. In these continuing conversations with women who play computer games as a serious leisure activity, echoes resonate in previous research and interviews I have undertaken over the past five years in and around e- sports and with the women who participated in diverse fields of play.