Save the Princess: Depictions of Gender in Indie Video Games
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Since their initial development in the 1960s, video games have grown to become one of the most economically and culturally significant forms of media in modern society. Due to the interactive nature of video games, where players assume the role of the main character in the story, researchers have found that video games can significantly influence players. Typically, games created by large video game developers are used in these studies while independent or “indie” games have received little attention. Indie games are created outside of the formal structure of major, corporate development studios. In this thesis, I analyzed the depiction of gender in 15 of the most financially and critically successful independent video games from the past decade. More specifically, I examined two aspects of indie video games—depictions of gender and the makeup of the development team—using ethnographic content analysis within the theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdeau’s concepts of field, habitus, capital, and symbolic violence. I find that most of the indie games present normative gender roles common in games from larger studios, including the hypermasculinization of male characters, hypersexualization of female characters, and the narrative trope of the damsel in distress.