Present Scenarios of
Media Production
and Engagement

Title chapter: Videogames as a Political Medium: The Case of Mass Effect and the Gendered Gaming Scene of Dissensus
Author: Leandro Augusto Borges Lima
Keywords: Videogames, Scene Of Dissensus, Gender, Mass Effect
Abstract: Videogames scholars rarely engage with concepts from political sciences to explain the presence of political themes such as gender within the medium. In this chapter, I intend to fill this gap and argue how videogames are “political”, supported by an analysis of the videogame trilogy Mass Effect and interviews conducted with ME players in Brazil. I argue that videogames are often part of “scenes of dissensus” regarding societal debates, based in Jacques Rancière conceptualization of politics as defiant of the consensus created by the police order. In the first part, I will argue that videogames are political in three axes: production, content and consumption. At the production level, videogame politics of production are correlated to a shift in the industry after the crash of the 80s. The content axis derives from production choices and discusses the prevalence of physical and symbolic violence narratives. The consumption level unveils the dynamics of production and consumption as they affect gamers’ experience of play and everyday political conversation. The second part of this chapter discusses a particular dimension of the political, namely gender. The discussion focuses on the core elements of this scene of dissensus within videogames, from its brief gendered history to the three phases of gender research in videogames (Richard, 2013) and its main points of contention. The third part of this chapter focuses on a case study to clarify the dissensus and the “political” within the boundaries of gendered gaming using the trilogy Mass Effect as a case in study. The analysis follows two axes: production-content, discussing game mechanics and in-game representation of female characters, and content-consumption, discussing the perceptions of gamers regarding Mass Effect gendered content in relation to their wider knowledge of videogames culture and informed by their personal experiences as gendered beings.
Click here to download full chapter [pdf]

Media and
Summer School