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Exploring gender discursive struggles about social inclusion in an online gaming community

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Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to adopt a critical relational dialectics framework to identify and explore gender discursive struggles about social inclusion observed in an online gaming community, in South Africa.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses a technique called contrapuntal analysis to identify and explore competing discourses in over 200 messages on gender struggles about social inclusion posted in the local community’s gamer discussion board, based on seven threads initiated by women gamer activists.

Findings

The findings show how four interrelated gender discursive struggles about social inclusion and social exclusion animated the meanings of online gamer relations: dominance vs equality, stereotyping vs diversity, competitiveness vs cooperativeness and privilege vs empowerment.

Practical implications

Game designers should reinforce more accurate and positive stereotypes to cater for the rapidly growing female gamer segment joining the online gaming market and to develop a less chauvinistic and more diversely representative online gaming community. Enlightened gamers should exercise greater solidarity in fighting for gender equality in online gaming communities.

Originality/value

The critical relational dialectics analysis adopted in this study offers a promising avenue to understand and critique the discursive struggles that arise when online gamers from the different gender groups relate. The findings highlight the unequal discursive power and privilege of many white male gamers when discussing social inclusion. Advancing our understanding of these discursive struggles creates the possibilities for improving social inclusion in online gaming communities.
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Keywords: Computer games; Contrapuntal analysis; Critical relational dialectics; Gender; Online gaming; Social inclusion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Informatics, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Publication date: August 23, 2019

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