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Virtual gender: How men and women use videogame bodies

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Qualitative and quantitative data reveal that residents of virtual worlds have rich expectations for their in-game bodies (avatars), and that these expectations are important to how players respond to the typically hypersexualized bodies produced for most games. This paper argues that players are not a homogenous group in their response to such sexualization, but rather that while some players object to it, others, both male and female, enjoy it. The sexualization of videogame avatars participates in the social construction of gender norms and this process can disenfranchise players, but it also offers many players opportunities reclaim, subvert, and/or transform gender norms and thereby experience feelings of empowerment. As players have varied responses to the sexualization of videogame bodies, game designers need to provide a wide variety of customization options for both male and female bodies; these need not eliminate those currently offered, but should supplement them with other body types.
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Keywords: avatar; body; gender; sex; videogame; virtual world

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Manhattan College

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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  • The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds focuses on theoretical and applied, empirical, critical, rhetorical, creative, economic and professional approaches to the study of electronic games across platforms and genres as well as ludic and serious online environments.
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