American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


From Girlfriend to Gamer: Negotiating Place in the Hardcore/Casual Divide of Online Video Game Communities

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies/Ethnic Studies

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Amy Robinson

Third Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Donald McQuarie (Committee Member)


The stereotypical video gamer has traditionally been seen as a young, white, male; even though female gamers have also always been part of video game cultures. Recent changes in the landscape of video games, especially game marketers' increasing interest in expanding the market, have made the subject of women in gaming more noticeable than ever. This dissertation asked how gender, especially females as a troubling demographic marking difference, shaped video game cultures in the recent past. This dissertation focused primarily on cultures found on the Internet as they related to video game consoles as they took shape during the beginning of the seventh generation of consoles, between 2005 and 2009. Using discourse analysis, this dissertation analyzed the ways gendered speech was used by cultural members to define not only the limits and values of a generalizable video game culture, but also to define the idealized gamer. This dissertation found that video game cultures exhibited the same biases against women that many other cyber/digital cultures employed, as evidenced by feminist scholars of technology. Specifically, female gamers were often perceived as less authoritative of technology than male gamers. This was especially true when the concept "hardcore" was employed to describe the ideals of gaming culture. It was harder for female gamers to claim the identity of hardcore gamer because this ideal referenced masculine attributes that women were perceived as lacking. Rather, female gamers were lumped into the category of the "casual" consumer of video games, not valued in the community and sometimes also seen as problematic. Biases against perceived feminine gaming styles were also discovered in formal structures of video game cultures, as evidenced by analyses of video game reviews. This data suggests that female gamers had a harder time fitting into video game cultures than male gamers because of gendered biases within the cultures. This dissertation advocated for the dismantling of hidden male privileges underpinning these biases so that a more equitable gaming culture could be achieved.