Thesis: More Than Skin Deep: Playing Gender in the Social Worlds of Overwatch
Summary: My project centered on examining experiences related to gender in the online, multiplayer video game Overwatch. Overwatch is unique amongst virtual worlds due to its design, including compulsory teamwork, and the extensive pop culture presence and fan communities surrounding the game. Through dozens of hours of gameplay and deep analysis of forums, blogs, and news related to Overwatch, I concluded that gender becomes a symbolic marker of ability in the game. When players present as masculine or feminine, player expectations about their ability and skill vary based on these gender assumptions. Overwatch’s misogynistic design choices interact with the biases and behavior of its players to create a space in which female energy is degraded and commodified. Female players persist in the world of Overwatch by connecting with other women players, and due to their enjoyment of the game despite these challenges surrounding gender.
Future Plans: I will be pursuing my doctorate in Information & Media at Michigan State University beginning Fall 2018. In the program I plan to continue researching digital worlds, fandom cultures, identity in the media, and related topics.