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Unformatted text preview: PLAYING THE GAME Young girls performing femininity in video game play Valerie Walkerdine While much literature on girls and video games offers games for girls as presenting an empowerment through the possibility f or girls of active engagement and the possibility of honing skills to win, this paper argues that things are not so simple. Based on a study of children between the ages of 8 and 11 playing video games in after school clubs in Sydney, Australia, the paper argues that most video games are one site for the production of contemporary masculinity. On this basis it is argued that girls playing games have to negotiate complex performances which demand qualities traditionally ascribed to masculinity alongside those ascribed to femininity. This produces difficulties for girls in competing to win while at the same time displaying sensitivity, caring, and co-operation. This is discussed by analysing what happens when some girls play. KEYWORDS computer games; gender; girls; children Introduction Eight year old Carla instructs other girls how to play a particular game. remember not to die, she says, all you have to do, is not diehow easy is that? Notice how she uses the passive constructionshe instructs her fellow players not to remember to kill but to remember to avoid being killed, not to die, the most basic aspect of game play. In this paper, I explore what I see as the implications of the complex positioning of femininity in video game play for young girls. This analysis is based upon research undertaken in Sydney Australia, which involved setting up video game clubs in two after school settings in western Sydney for girls and boys aged between 8 and 11 who self-selected as liking to play video games, twenty-four boys and twenty-four girls in total. The childrens play was video recorded and they and their parents were interviewed in their homes. The children played G rated games, both single and multi-player, that is, those considered suitable for their age group according to the Australian classification system. The games available in the club were the console games for Nintendo 65 and Playstation, then most popular games according to industry ratings. The discussion that follows is based upon an engagement with these data. While there is growing address to gender and video game play (e.g., Fromme 2003; Kennedy 2002), most of it involves analyses of the games themselves and hardly any engages with what happens when playing and even then little is about young childrens Feminist Media Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4, 2006 ISSN 1468-0777 print/ISSN 1471-5902 online/06/040519-537 q 2006 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/14680770600990036 play. While there is plenty of interest to be said about the construction of the games themselves, it is in playing the games that subjectivity is constituted and this means that analysis of the games alone will of necessity be a relatively poor guide to what happens when playing. The central argument that I am making here is that many video games arewhen playing....
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