To play in peace? – Gendered relations and spatial practices of homosocial space formation in online gaming

Authors: Vevila Dornelles*, University of Reading - UK
Topics: Gender, Sexuality
Keywords: Digital geographies, feminist geographies, online gaming, spatial practices, homosocial spaces, League of Legends
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The formation of homosocial spaces is a complex spatial practice whose nature varies according to actors and agents' situation on power struggles and negotiations for the use of space. Fields such as digital sociology and anthropology have addressed gender and sexuality-based segregational online communities, but gamers' motivations, perceptions and emotions towards creating and using these spaces are still to be thoroughly addressed by geographers. This paper presents partial results of a mixed-method postgraduate research seeking to understand the extent, nature and socio-cultural heterogeneity of the gendered spatial practices at play in online gaming spaces. Through a feminist approach, the study revealed contrasting geographies of power across the several spheres of the massive online battle arena (MOBA) League of Legends, by finding that LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others) or women-only spaces are created and lived as safe places, strategically shaped to provide solace, inclusivity, and a sense of security face perceived exclusionary practices. On the other hand, the creation of men-only spaces is reportedly unintentional, although revealing underlying negative attitudes towards women participation. This study extends digital geographies research and contributes to a broader critical mass of feminist game studies and activism by exposing the gendered aspects of digital spaces, and the complex practices that shape them.

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