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Gender, sex and romance in role playing video games: Dragon’s Dogma, Fable III and Dragon Age: Inquisition

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Gender, as Judith Butler argued, is performative. People define their gender by ‘doing’, often unknowingly, through manners, gestures and practices. Video games are cybertexts with configurative performances, that is, the act of playing is a constant performance that affects not only the creation of meaning, but the resulting text of the game as well. When we play, we shape the discourse by ‘doing’. Representation – how the game elements can be seen to articulate meaning – and performance – how the player uses the game to complete and modify this meaning – cannot be separated in game analysis. Every game gives us a set of actions, or mechanics that we use at will to achieve goals following clear rules, and these rules and actions are precisely the building blocks of a game. Ludofictional worlds have an ingrained idea of ‘reality’ that we can take at face value or explore, even question. So, if games are performances, is our performance within them gendered? That is, are we reproducing our learned performativity or breaking away from it? Is the game a procedure we follow or an instrument we use to express ourselves? In this article, I use game analysis tools and theory to describe if and how three particular games, Dragon’s Dogma (Capcom, 2012), Fable III (Lionhead Studios, 2010) and Dragon Age: Inquisition (BioWare, 2014), each coming from a different territory: Japan, Europe and the United States – give the player freedom and opportunity to perform gender, and how they include pluralism and/or diversity. The article has no intention to describe all of the current gaming culture, but to illustrate some trends in mainstream games regarding representation and player freedom in the design of gender and sex. Romance can be seen as the frame of a conversation between the designers and the players.
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Keywords: fantasy; gender; identification; performance; role playing; romance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Comillas Pontifical University

Publication date: October 1, 2018

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  • The Catalan Journal of Communication and Cultural Studies (CJCS) is committed to publishing research and theoretical articles in the fields of media studies, popular culture and cinema, public relations and advertising studies, social communication, new media, language uses in the media, communication and cultural policies, social and national identities, gender studies, sports and leisure, tourism and heritage, among other related issues. CJCS publishes double blind peer-reviewed articles and its aims and scope cover not only Catalan media and cultural systems but also other social contexts.
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