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Title: "Wimps need not apply!" : constructing video game developer identity
Author: Marks, K. D.
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2013
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Having emerged from the self-taught hacker culture of 1980s home-computing, contemporary video game development is now a mainstream global business. Since the industry has managed to gain respectability without sacrificing credibility, it is widely perceived as both financially and intrinsically rewarding, and so has therefore become an aspirational graduate career choice. Despite such desirability, however, there is a considerable lack of diversity amongst the workforce, which consists almost entirely of young white men. Women are particularly poorly represented, not only in relation to overall employee numbers, but also in terms of their distribution across both job roles and the corporate hierarchy. Although conforming to stereotypical expectations, it is apparent that this cannot simply be attributed to inherent sex differences in ability or preference. In addition, a number of online exposés have revealed that, despite having a positive public image, extreme working hours are endemic within the industry. Rather counterintuitively, it appears that employees choose to adopt such working practices, rather than being made to. This thesis considers how such problematic issues are interrelated through the existence of a particular workplace culture, and suggests that it is both a cause and a consequence of them. In particular, it is proposed that the extreme working practices within video game development provide traditionally marginalised male groups with a resource for the social performance of a locally hegemonic form of masculine gender identity. Consequently, this suggests that there is a significant incentive for those benefiting from such masculine resources to protect them, which is likely to result in an industry culture that is hostile to feminine women. By examining the discourse within a number of social interactions that naturally occur at the interface between the industry and the public, this thesis considers how the maintenance of such a masculine version of 'reality' is carried out in practice. Particular attention is paid to the way in which the utilisation of dichotomous categorical stereotypes to manage local interactional issues acts to further propagate such constructs as global resources for use in future interactions. Most significantly, the application of a novel method of visual analysis to metaphorical representations of video game developers suggests that recruitment advertisements act to conflate masculinity and competence. Employees who fail to perform masculinity through the adoption of extreme working practices are therefore likely to be regarded as technically incompetent. As a consequence, women who wish to maintain their femininity will either not enter the industry at all, or remain in low status positions. Since the few women that do progress must behave like stereotypical men in order to attain positions of power, they are then unlikely to regard the culture as problematic or seek to reform it. The self-reinforcing nature of such a workplace culture offers an explanation as to why stand-alone interventions have so far had little impact on either work/life balance or female underrepresentation, and suggests that such issues cannot be addressed by simply seeking to impose a critical mass of women into the industry. Instead, it is proposed that interventions should treat these issues as mutually reinforcing, and therefore directly tackle the way in which they are linked by an industry culture that is maintained through the ongoing reproduction of various problematic discourses relating to dichotomous categorical stereotypes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available