THE PROS AND PERILS OF INTERDEPENDENCE: FEMINIST ORGANIZING IN ONLINE GAME FORUMS
Keywords:online communities, gaming, feminism, consciousness-raising, collectivity
Within video game culture, where the medium's association with masculinity remains strong, it can be difficult for female players to connect with one another or to find safe spaces for play. Without support systems, many drop out of gaming over time. This indicates a need to build greater interdependencies between affected players, to provide interpersonal support and develop collective responses to gaming’s inequalities. Research in other areas suggests that targeted internet communities, such as Facebook groups, could provide space for feminist networking, consciousness-raising, and action, but it also reveals that such spaces have limits. Like games, the internet is often seen as masculinized, meaning explicitly feminist conversations and communities can draw disruptive trolls. Groups that police their boundaries to avoid these problems may implicitly prioritize some participants—i.e. straight, white, cisgender women—over others. This exploratory study analyzes top posts in two gaming forums—one general and one female-specific—to begin assessing if/how online communities for female gamers build interdependencies and raise feminist consciousness. More specifically, it assesses posts about harassment—which is often directed at female players as perceived “outsiders”—to determine if, when, and how toxicity is discussed as a general vs. a gendered problem, as well as if resulting discourses offer opportunities for consciousness-raising and collective action. This paper seeks to help marginalized players build stronger, more inclusive gaming and internet cultures.