ENCOUNTERS AT THE IMAGINAL CROSSROADS: AN EXPLORATION OF THE EXPERIENCES OF WOMEN IN ROLE-PLAYING GAMES

by Victoria Jesswein last modified 2020-08-18T14:52:41-07:00
By Christopher J. Dyszelski PHD DISSERTATION ABSTRACT This study was a critical, archetypal, feminist ethnography and psychological inquiry into the experiences of women in tabletop role-playing gaming and its culture. Informed by performance ethnographic practice and the spirit of these games, it is written as an adventurous journey into and encounter with these experiences based on participant observation, interviews with gaming professionals, an online questionnaire of 428 gamers, and series of interviews with female gamers. Ethnographically, this study documents the history and experiences of women in the culture of gaming. It presents profiles of a diversity of female gamers and explores historically the ways that women have established themselves as members of this culture and shaped this traditionally male dominated hobby. It also examines a multiplicity of opinions about and experiences of sexism, prejudice, and discrimination of women in gaming. While demonstrating the progress in the games and their culture to become more inclusive and welcoming to women, it shows there is still far to go. It also demonstrates how despite the possibility and creative potential for gaming and its culture to imagine completely new social worlds, the same power dynamics and social structures are recreated in the games, groups, and culture. Psychologically, the study uses archetypal, relational, and pluralistic models of the self to demonstrate the complex imaginal relationship between self and character and the notion that role-playing games can be transformational liminoid spaces. The study explored the multiplicity of three participants, through a series of interviews, one series with the player, one interacting with each participant in role as one of their characters, and then a final series reflecting on the experience of the two previous interviews, the process, and the themes that were discussed. These interviews demonstrate three different relationships between self and character, as well as the ways that those imaginal relationships have impacted the lives of these women in powerful ways that reach beyond just fun and games.

Document Actions