Identity, Identification and Representation in video game play

Notes From Identity Etc

In “Identity, Identification and Media Representation in Video Game Play: An audience reception study” (2010), Shaw argues that identification in video game play is complex, and is influenced by a variety of factors including: a game’s mechanics, it’s narrative, the context of game play and the player’s understanding of their own identity. Researchers cannot assume that players will identify with game characters based on shared identifiers such as race, gender, and sexuality. Shaw highlights that fantasy and escapism are common motivations for video game play, and often players are not looking to identify with their video game characters at all.  However, Shaw asserts that diversity in video games is important and is the social responsibility of producers. The game industry’s pluralistic approach, marketing specific types of games to niche markets, can alienate those from the groups being represented and can perpetuate stereotypes. However, while representation is important, it should not undermine the playfulness of gaming.

As this newsgame is in part a response to the stigmatization of sex workers in the media, the representation of sex workers is central to this project. Shaw advocates for diverse and complex character creation in video games, as reducing video game characters to specific identifiers does not induce identification. However, she also points out that identification between players and their characters is not straightforward, and it is impossible to capture all the complexity and nuances of the lives of sex workers in a video game. However, Shaw’s research does suggest that accurate and fair representations are more important to players in realistic games, which is particularly relevant to newsgames.