Between the Gloss and Reality - How gender representations have meaning in a play world: a case study on Grand Theft Auto V and Mirror’s Edge
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This thesis explores how representations of masculinity and femininity are valued in a case study on two video games: Grand Theft Auto V and Mirror’s Edge. I will give an account on gender representations in the media, and in video games specifically. I will place the ways in which these representations on gender are valued for the two video games in the debate on the distinction between a play world and the actual world. Here, I draw on Johan Huizinga’s key text Homo Ludens, who considered the world of play to be separate from the actual world. I will discuss critiques on his text through the use of texts by Christoph Bareither, Joost Raessens, Tom Boellstorff, and Marinka Copier. I will analyze my own experiences through participant observation, and this data will be substantiated with autoethnography. I will also employ an ethnographic content analysis to analyze what other video game players have written about the two video games in articles and blogs. The results show that the play world of video games is not completely separate to the actual world, but they are in dialogue with each other. Representations of gender that are portrayed in the two video games have their effects in the real world, as evidenced by the data. For future research, I would suggest more qualitative studies on specific cases to contribute to more knowledge about what these representations mean, while staying attentive to its complexities. Another different avenue to take would be to compare the upcoming Grand Theft Auto VI to the recently released Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.