A 36-24-36 Cerebrum”
A 36-24-36 Cerebrum: Gendering Video Game Play through AdvertisingBy Shira ChessIntroduction
Until only recently, video games were often understood to be created by and for masculine audiences (Fron et al, 2007; Ray, 2004; Cassell & Jenkins, 1999). Now, in the past few years, an influx of video games (such as
)has been increasingly marketed to a demographic previously ignored by the gamingindustry: adult females. As such, there are now more video games created specifically for (and marketed to) women. At the same time though, one does not have to look far to see adivision and gendered hierarchy between traditional (masculine) gamers and newer (feminine) gamers. Advertising is one way where this divisiveness becomes particularlyvisible. At its core, play is marketed differently to men than it is to women, andunderlying these marketing differences are deeper issues of gender and play.In what follows, I will be discussing video game advertising in magazines,showing how video game audiences are becoming simultaneously both broader andnarrower: video game appeals might be made to larger audiences—now often includingmore women. But at the same time, these appeals often narrow the kinds of play thatwomen are authorized to engage in. In order to illustrate this, I use content and semioticanalysis of advertising in two traditional video game magazines, showing how femininityis often excluded or marginalized from traditional gaming. Subsequently, I similarlyanalyze advertising in some non-video game magazines—mostly aimed at adult femaleaudiences, showing specific ways that video games and play have been pitched to womenin recent years.
Gender, Video Games, and Leisure
Much of the previous research on video games and gender has been limited to thequestion, “how do we get little girls to play video games?” Books such as,
From Barbieto Mortal Combat
(1999) helped to pave the way for discussions of the gendered natureof the video game industry (Cassell & Jenkins, 1999), yet research on young girls wasoften unfairly applied to research on women (Taylor, 2006). In turn, focusing on girlsrather than women (while perhaps more practical when studying play) ultimately ignores2