Grad student: Gaming culture privileges 'hypermasculine' men

A graduate student at the University of Arizona recently published his thesis, arguing that gaming culture “privileges cis, heterosexual, and hypermasculine men.”

Jeremy Omori, who will graduate with an MA in Cultural Pedagogy in May, argues in his thesis that because gaming culture privileges cisgender and heterosexual men, it consequently serves to perpetuate the oppression of “those who may not fit this mold.”

Whereas some scholars argue that gamers are animated by a “common interest” ethos, and therefore tend to ignore issues of identity politics, Omori argues that overlooking racial and gender elements of games is problematic.

[RELATED: USC video game panel cancelled over lack of women]

“Criticisms of cis male gamers in numerous gaming communities stating that they want their games to be about fun and not about real world politics are unknowingly still enforcing real world politics through the lens of privilege,” he writes.

Further, Omori argues that the privileging of white men in the gaming field has direct consequences for racial minorities, women, transgender people, and LGBTQ individuals, asserting that “when one begins to critically analyze the experiences of female, LGBTQ, and racial minority gamers, the structures of the larger gamer community is littered with hypermasculine, heterosexual, cis male, and often white privilege.”

Women, for example, can be marginalized by the “violence towards women” found in some games, while queer and trans gamers may feel compelled to “monitor and police oneself into performing their sexuality in a certain way.” Racial minorities, meanwhile, may be harmed if “virtual worlds reinforce certain cultural stereotypes.”

[RELATED: Profs use video games to teach about ‘white privilege’]

The Phoenix Gaymers, one of Arizona’s largest gay-gaming groups, exemplifies these concerns, Omori determined after doing fieldwork at the group’s meetings, reporting that “the space is very white, indicating the ‘lack of diversity’ at club events.”

The fact that the overwhelming majority of "gaymers" were white made the space hostile for racial minorities, even in the absence of racist comments or remarks, Omori explains.

While Omori doesn’t have many recommendations for fixing the oppressive nature of the gaming industry that marginalizes non-white cis males, he does highlight the need for more awareness of transgender gamers.

“Having more education tools for those who are trans or allies to become aware of trans issues would be a start for trans people to feel more included,” he argues, adding that “it is important to continue to think through and expand the literature on trans gaymers.”

Omori declined to comment for this article.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen