Collective Organizing, Individual Resistance, or Asshole Griefers? An Ethnographic Analysis of Women of Color in Xbox Live

Version of Record: Gray, Koshonna (2013). Collective Organizing, Individual Resistance, or Asshole Griefers? An Ethnographic Analysis of Women of Color in Xbox Live. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No.2doi:10.7264/N3KK98PS

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Introduction

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 2 Textual analysis has traditionally dominated the manner we study the internet and virtual communities.  With the convergence of technologies infiltrating these mediated environments, the once text heavy communities are becoming more inclusive of images, video, audio, and user generated content.  Visual content analysis is a more suitable observational method that can be used to explore the way media represent people, events, situations, and so forth as well as the influence that individuals have had on mediated culture (Bell, 2001).  One such mediated phenomenon that has peaked the interest of researchers is the displacement of social movements and collective resistance into virtual settings and the mediated environment this paper will explore is Xbox Live.  Specifically, my purpose is to document the experience of a small cohort of female gamers of color tracking their response to struggles with racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other intersecting oppressions.  They have responded with various in-game and real world tactics to counter the perceived source of their (linguistic) oppression.  Video games have previously been examined for their ability to allow gamers the ability to resist hegemonic structures of power (Sanford & Madill, 2006).  By employing visual ethnography, I examine if these tactics are reminiscent of actual collective organizing, merely reflect individual acts of resistance, or are simply griefing activities used to disrupt gameplay and harass other players.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Video Games and Visual Imagery

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 1 As Mitchell (2005) suggests, images are increasingly important in a society bombarded with visual temptation on a consistent basis.  Video games, as a mostly visual media, are powerful and realistic enough to elicit strong emotions and actions.   Thus, it becomes even more important to understand the meanings associated with the image as images have become a key battleground used to disseminate a specific message.  Popular video games produce and disseminate particularly hegemonic ideology specifically concerning masculinity and whiteness as the norm.  This could be due to the power structure of the gaming industry being a predominately white, and secondarily Asian, male-dominated elite (Fron, Fullerton, Morie, & Pearce, 2007).  Additionally, the target audience for video games is mostly a replica of the industry’s leaders: young, white, and male.  But the issue is not that the industry or target audience represents a majority, but rather when women and racial minorities are featured, they are disturbingly depicted in stereotypical manners.  For instance, Everett (2009) confirms through popular media that the typical gamer is not only depicted as male but also white.  Burgess, Stermer, & Burgess (2007) found that males were portrayed four times more frequently than their female counterparts and females were depicted in a hypersexualized manner.  Miller & Summer’s (2007) similarly found that males were more likely to be shown as heroes while females were more likely to be portrayed in support roles.  Dill & Thill (2007) also found that males were shown as more aggressive and females were shown more sexualized.  Similarly, Dietz (1998) identified that 28% the games within her study portrayed women as sex objects.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 1 Downs & Smith (2009) also found that women were more likely to show partial nudity, have unrealistic body images (large breast/small waist), and wear sexually revealing clothing (IGN, 2007).  Beasley & Standley (2002) also found this sex bias in how males were featured compared to females.  And despite the increase in lead female characters in video games such as Lara Croft and Heavenly Sword, they are still mostly depicted in stereotypical manners (Jansz & Martis, 2007).

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Although representations of racial minorities are mostly absent from popular video games, when they are present, they are often stereotypical.  In sports games such as NBA Street, Street Hoops, and NFL Street, the environments are situated in ghetto, urban locations and set to hip-hop soundtracks “thereby staging a convergence of discourses on athleticism, blackness, and commodified ghetto cool” (Chan, 2005, p. 27).  Outside of the sports genre, racial depictions in video games are even more pronounced.  For instance, True Crime is an action-adventure series that has featured an Asian-American and African-American lead character.  In the first installment of True Crime, lead character Nick Kang is an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and is essentially a bad cop.  The game’s stereotypical imagery is deployed most vividly in Kang’s Orientalism in that it is highly “fetishized and demonized” (Chan, 2005, p. 29).  Additionally, the Asian culture of Los Angeles is ‘othered’ providing a virtual tour of Chinatown – from the hegemonic standpoint.  In the second installment, African American lead character Marcus Reed starts off stereotypically as a gang member but ultimately becomes a cop in the New York Police Department.  However, he soon turns rogue as the game requires him to avenge the death of the man who saved him from the streets.  Violence is normalized in Reed’s life as the only option within the Black community ““ from street violence (gangs) to state sanctioned violence (police).

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 The popular Grand Theft Auto series has been heavily discussed by not only game scholars, but also by politicians and mainstream media although these discussions are situated around extreme violence and depictions of women.  Just to provide a description of the racial landscape of Grand Theft Auto III, almost all of the innocent citizens in the fictional Liberty City are white, and “the police are white and paragons of virtue” (Leonard, 2003, p. 3).

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 You, as the only white character, are sent to Liberty City to lead and/or control the other…you accept jobs ranging from driving the “girls” (all of whom are prostitutes) to assassinating rival gang members (all people of color). Your enemies in Liberty City consist of a number of gangs: the Triads (Chinese); Yazuka (Japanese); Diablos (“Hispanic street gang”); South Side Hoods (blacks); the Columbian Cartel; and the Yardies (Jamaican) (Leonard, 2003, p. 3).

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Grand Theft Auto, as a racial project, “legitimizes white supremacy and patriarchy and privileges whiteness and maleness” (p. 3).  In this sense, white hegemony is legitimized through the process of othering and ‘pixelated minstrelsy’ by depicting racial minorities singularly (Chan, 2005).

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 A subsequent installment of Grand Theft Auto was located in the fictional city of San Andreas and resembles 1990’s South Central, Los Angeles.  Similar to the previous installment of GTA, discussions surrounding this game immediately centered on violent inner city life.  Few scholars note the extreme depictions of Blackness and hypermasculinity in lead character CJ.  For instance, CJ must constantly work out to avoid getting fat as he must maintain his muscular, masculine physique and uphold the ‘gangsta’ lifestyle (Barrett, 2006, p. 96).  An additional theme present in San Andreas is the reality in which you ““ CJ begins the game.  He lives in a “pseudo-shantytown…under a bridge;” his “friends are all unemployed, parentless gangbangers,” (p. 101) and the violence in his life is immediate, automatic, and ever present.  By not providing any explanation of these events, it reifies Black inner city life totally ignoring structural inequalities such as three-strikes laws, mass incarceration, neoliberal reforms, poverty, and other forces at work that have assisted in creating this reality.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 This hegemonic imagery is present in fighting genres as well.  Street Fighter, a popular series, has always featured stereotypical characters associated with particular countries.  For instance, Blanka is a hulk-looking beast from Brazil, Guile is a hyper masculine American G.I., E. Honda is a sumo wrestler from Japan, El Fuerte is a Mexican character in search of spicy food, and Zangief is a Russian wrestler just to name a few (Ware, 2010).  Although Street Fighter is a Japanese game, race and culture are still stereotyped and deployed in a ‘comical and exaggerated’ manner (p. 55).  Importantly, in creating their own depictions of Asianness, “there is no “primitiveness” in these characters of the sort that is usually indicative of Orientalism – Edward Said’s process by which white Western discourse produces Eastern subjects as “savage” and “exotic” (p. 57).  Similar to American video games, the elite power structures created and deployed constructed images that perpetuate hegemonic structures of whiteness and masculinity.  This is made obvious in Street Fighter’s representation of Second and Third world characters.  As Ware (2010) explains, this ‘Monstrous Other’ is not associated with the Us (Asian East) or You (American West).  In this sense, Japanese game designers have constructed and sustained white Western thinking of the default racial setting.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 1 Massively Multiplayer game settings are similar to their console counterparts.  Although identities such as gender and class are highly represented, racial and ethnic depictions are mostly absent (Kolko, 2000).  Debunking utopic assumptions of virtual space, Kolko argues that the internet is far from liberatory but rather a space that continues a ‘cultural map of assumed whiteness’ (p. 225).  Kolko rightly points out that when there is an attempt to make race and ethnicity present, it is met with resistance.  For example, EverQuest, a MMORPG that features a Black race of playable characters, succeeded in incorporating Black bodies into game play.  When EverQuest II was released, the Erudite (Black) race had evolved into a ‘skeletal, Caucasoid’ that was ‘vaguely extraterrestrial’ (Higgin, 2009, p. 14).  This imagery is powerful enough and has normalized stereotypical depictions of women and people of color.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 Theoretical Framework

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Women of color, as a marginalized population have traditionally attempted to dismantle hegemonic imagery depicting women and people color stereotypically.  Since the early feminist movements, they have organized to disrupt the hegemonic gazes of whiteness and masculinity.  An important tenet of Black feminist thought is to create and control definitions which are imperative for empowerment.  The four tenets of Black Feminist Standpoint Theory include: 1) defining their own community, 2) addressing the interlocking nature of oppression, 3) embracing political activism, and 4) recognizing the importance of culture.  These tenets, as outlined by Patricia Hill Collins (2000) can allow for marginalized populations to reclaim ownership of imagery as well as empower their communities.  The oppressed have a unique standpoint since they share particular social locations, such as gender, race, and/or class.  Further, these individuals share their meaningful experiences with one another generating knowledge about the social world from their points of view (Harnois, 2010).  Since the earliest feminist movements, women have identified imagery as a site of continued contestation and they are a key battleground used to disseminate a specific message.  Mulvey explains that the hegemonic view of women stems from the male gaze which situates the female body as the bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning (as cited in Kennedy, 2002).

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 The shaping of the visual in a manner that encourages support for a cause highlights the images’ ability to attack authority.  The battle of the visual is waged when the authority and the apparatus of mass media attempt to alter the meanings of the image (Doerr & Teune, 2012).  Women and people of color have continually attempted to disrupt the stereotypical imagery so often associated with them.  Women of color in particular have historically tried to dismantle the view of mammy, sapphire, ho, etc but the dominant messages are so powerful, these attempts have often been futile, although this has not hindered their attempts.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 1 Actors within social movements possess a keen ability to harness the image, shaping it around their perceptions and creating new definitions of an already pre-defined vision.  A multitude of recent scholarship, include the following:  Buck-Morss, 2009; Casquete, 2003; Sawer, 2007; Engel, 2007; Chesters & Welsh, 2004.  They have focused on how the social movement has been able to implore the image as a way to create a collective identity, helping to draw others in to their movements (Buck-Morss, 2009).  Not only can the social movement use the image to develop a collective identity, it can also form a community on the outside of the social movement especially for those viewing the movement through a distorted media lens.  Feminist bloggers have succeeded in gaining outside attention to stereotypical imagery of women within video games as well as the sexism inherent in the industry.  These blogs and websites include Black Girl Gamer (www.geekfeminism.org), the Border House (www.borderhouseblog.com), Feminist Frequency (www.feministfrequency.com), The Angry Black Woman (www.theangryblackwoman.com), and The Girl Gamer (www.4thegirlgamers.blogspot.com).  Although these sites may not solely be devoted to video gaming, these blogs do devote significant attention to race and gender issues within games and the video game industry.  Unfortunately, Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency, was recently targeted because of her critical stance against video games and their depictions of women.  A game was actually created called “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian (Garcia, 2012).”  Male gamer, Ben Spurr, created this game to beat her up.  This type of violent imagery against women is very dangerous and has propelled the movement even more.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Websites and blogs, such as the above mentioned, have been instrumental in disseminating messages associated with particular movements.  Websites should be seen as public spaces and within social movements, public spaces are used to break the boundaries of the State, producing a cultural imagination that develops out of the communicative practice of the image, not just the text.  This communicative practice has the ability to unite both those protestors within the movement, and those even protesting the movement from the ‘outside’.  Within the virtual gaming setting of Xbox Live, the public space can also be viewed as the gaming space that can be manipulated any way the gamer chooses.  Some gamers opt to play the game in a normal manner and others choose to utilize the gaming space as the site of resistance and grief.  Within social movements, the image becomes the site to challenge the dominant culture and to provoke reactions (Doeer & Teune, 2012). As you will read, the participants within this study altered normal game play to challenge the source of their virtual oppression: the male gamer.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Method

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 2 The unit of visual analysis within this study was Xbox Live game play.  Specifically visual observation and analysis took place during gaming sessions of the following:  Gears of War I and II; and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  Although we played more games, these two games allowed the research participants the most freedom in carrying out their tactics and resistive actions hence the focus on the two.  I examined types of game play and identified three major types of game play the participants engaged in:  1) normal game play (no disruptions); 2) individual resistance/griefing (a single player interrupting game play with griefing strategies); 3) collective resistance/griefing (more than one player interrupting game play with griefing strategies).  The latter two options were directly used to challenge the authoritative establishment of Xbox Live as well as disrupt game play of the source of their virtual oppression.  Other real world strategies and methods were examined as well.  For a period of 7 months, averaging 4 hours of gameplay each day, I collected data (approximately 850 hours).  IRB approval was granted prior to conducting any interviews or observations.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Participants

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Random sampling was not a possibility in this community.  Snowball sampling was utilized to generate the population of gamers.  Soliciting was also forbidden within Xbox Live so widespread participation was limited.  The participants within this study were members of two clans[1] which are similar to guilds seen in World of Warcraft.  Many game researchers have studied the motivation behind joining guilds and clans within online gaming and found that most players join guilds to strategize within the game and complete difficult objectives (Ducheneaut, Yee, Nickell, & Moore, 2007); guilds are also very popular given that 78% of online gamers were members of guilds (Seay, Jerome, Lee, & Kraut, 2004).  Guilds/clans are not organized in this manner within Xbox live and clan membership is not imperative to completing objectives.  Clan membership within Xbox live appears to have more social value than anything although no studies have yet emerged on clan membership in Xbox live (Gray, 2011).  Members of Puerto Reekan Killaz and Conscious Daughters agreed to participate in this study (see table below for demographic information):

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Table 1: Participants Demographic Information

Gamertag Age/

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Gender

Race/Ethnicity Sexual

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Orient

Clan Name
MissUnique   Black/ Lesbian  
ThugMisses   Black/ Hetero  
cdXFemmeFataleXcd   Black/ Bisexual  
ShedaBoss   Black/ Lesbian  
MizzBoss917   Black/ Lesbian  
XpkX RicanMami   Black/ Lesbian  
XpkX MammaMia   Black/ Lesbian  
YeahSheBlaze   Black/ Lesbian  
Patroa917   Black/ Bisexual  
BossMama   Black/ Lesbian  

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0  

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 To explain the contrasts among the two clans within the current study, I will begin with descriptive information to shed light on each one.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 1 Conscious Daughters:  Conscious Daughters (CD’s) have existed since July 2006 and formed their clan while playing the first installment of Gears of War.  CD’s are dedicated to social justice and are a very conscious group.  At the time of the interviews, all nine members were attending college or had received college degrees.  CD’s formed as a means to reach out to women of all colors to create a safe haven for gaming; however, all members of the clan were African-American and at the time of the interviews, had not yet successfully recruited women from different ethnic backgrounds.  Although CD’s would organize matches with opposing teams, their priority was not serious gaming but rather the focus was on the social interactions within Xbox live.   In response to intersecting oppressions in Xbox Live, Conscious Daughters merely avoided the default gamer.  They simply segregated themselves and would only game with people they knew.  Early in their inception, they would collectively resist and grief.  For this reason, the abundance of the data within this project stems from observation and interviews with members of Puerto Reekan Killaz.  Conscious Daughters utilized different methods to resist oppressive structures in Xbox Live as will be outlined.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Puerto Reekan Killaz:  I found the most difficulty gaining entrée into the Blatina[2] clan.  I was previously familiar with one member of this clan and she introduced me to other members.  Upon recognizing that I would not be welcome with open arms, I began merely observing and gaming and rarely participated in conversations.  These observations helped me recognize the inner workings of this particular clan.  The observations helped me navigate their interactions with one another, with other female gamers, and with outsiders in general.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 I realized that the Puerto Reekan Killaz had created their clan as an all-lesbian space, and I had made it known previously that I had a male partner (not realizing that I was ostracizing myself).  Fortunately, since I was described as a femme (feminine woman) and the members of Puerto Reekan Killaz described themselves as studs (masculine/transgressive females ““ similar to butch in traditional feminist literature), they did not force me to leave their space.  I also discovered that the clan rarely welcomed members who were unable to speak Spanish.  My Black, female body was not enough for me to pass within this space initially.  Because I was so impressed with the tactics this clan employed towards males, I did not want to give up.  Although I was not able to learn Spanish fluently, I did incorporate phrases and words that I knew and earned the nickname ‘Spanglish’ among members of Puerto Rican Killaz.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 Procedure

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 To investigate the tactics employed by these women of color within Xbox Live, I employed participant observations, in-game observations, and narrative interviewing.  The participant observations and in-game observations provided the visual data that was analyzed in this study.  Since their tactics were live action as opposed to being situated in still imagery, I am unable to showcase the nature of their resistance strategies.  While gaming, I instructed each participant to narrate her actions or provide commentary on her in-game strategies.  During gameplay, I would make note of specific actions to discuss when the gaming session was complete.  This process was referred to as debriefing.  This process allowed gamers to reflect on their actions and reiterate their purpose and intended goals.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 Results

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 Ethnographic interviewing and visual analysis uncovered the oppressive nature of social interactions within Xbox Live.  Since this is a mostly audio-visual community that relies heavily on voice, linguistic profiling proved to be the source of struggle for my participants.  Although literature on Xbox Live is beginning to emerge, there are still very few studies that examine inequalities within this virtual gaming community.  One such study did find that linguistic profiling was the origin of inequality within the space (Gray, 2011).  The study revealed that linguistic profiling is similar to racial profiling as it uses visual cues that result in one confirming or speculating on the racial background of an individual.  Similarly, linguistic profiling being largely based on auditory cues could also lead to one assuming the racial identification of a group and reacting in a manner that oppresses members of that lingual population (as cited in Gray, 2011).  Scholars have long studied linguistic stereotypes finding discrimination based on accents and dialects against speakers of various ethnic backgrounds.  Women and people of color have been sexually and racially categorized and assumptions about women in gaming have emerged within the space.  As a result, many female gamers respond with various in-game and physical world tactics to thwart inequalities they experience.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Resistance Griefing? Women Responding to Intersecting Oppressions

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 In the chart below, the three major types of play are illustrated to show how much time is devoted to normal game play compared to the time devoted to resistance and griefing activities.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 These were based on my observations of the two clans:

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 [chart 1]

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 The above chart reveals similar patterns between the two clans.  It must be reiterated that Conscious Daughters initially formed to combat discrimination and inequality within the gaming space.  Although I was not able to observe this, interviews with members of the clan revealed that the majority of their time playing was devoted to griefing activities.  At the time of the study, Conscious Daughters had resumed normal in-game play and had opted for real world solutions to in-game inequalities which will be explained later.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 Puerto Reekan Killaz

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 Puerto Reekan Killaz spent the bulk of their time to normal gameplay.  But Puerto Reekan Killaz were innovative in their methods to grief and resist.  To gain a better sense of tactics employed, ponder the following excerpt when I observed individual resistance of a member of their clan:

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 Mzmygrane: Ok so I know why you do it, I want some examples of what you do.  Are there certain types of games where you do certain things? Walk me through some examples.

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 Patroa917: Oh yeah.  You see the most in Modern Warfare since Gears doesn’t have friendly fire on.  Let’s just play a round so you can see firsthand.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 (Several minutes past while we both prepare to play a match)

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 Patroa917: Ok everything depends on the map.  So if we get Wetwork, or Bog, or Ambush (names of maps from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare), we just hang out in the back and spawn kill.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 (Waiting for game to load)

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 Patroa917: Aight bet. We got Bog.  Now you go to the otha side and hang out behind that crate.  Or just hang wherever our teammates are and kill em.

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 (We are in a game mode called Hardcore where friendly fire is enabled meaning we can kill our teammates)

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 Mzmygrane: Umm. Kill our teammates? What about the other team?

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Patroa917: Kill em all. Shit! Spawn kill them and friendly kill us! Well not me (laughing).

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Mzmygrane: Ok.  Umm. What purpose does this serve?

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 Patroa917:  No purpose. Just making everybody mad.  We can make our team mad of course by killin em.  And we make the opposing team mad by spawn killing.  Everybody pissed off and it makes me happy.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 The first half of our griefing exercises was spent killing members of our own team comprised of all males who spoke Standard American English.  This type of griefing behavior, although annoying, seriously disrupted the enjoyment of the males within the game.  I could hear them through speakers in the television as they were lashing out against me and Patroa917.  As we continued gaming, I asked questions about these methods employed and wondered how often these types of tactics were employed by the women within this clan:

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 Mzmygrane: How often do you do this? Everyday? Every time you play?

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 Patroa917: Nah. Most of the time it’s not just random like we doin now.  We mostly do it after somebody piss us off. Oh shit. You see that shit (she sniped someone’s head off).

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 She explains that this type of behavior is usually in response to an oppressive act that occurs against them within Xbox live.  They react in this manner only when someone forces them to this type of action by calling them bitch, spic, or by commenting on their citizenship based on how they sound.  The excerpt continues below which outlines other griefing tactics employed by this clan:

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 (We complete several games and engage in the same behavior.  By this time, I have several messages of gamers complaining about my actions. Several gamers also submitted complaints on my actions within the game.  I continue resistance griefing with Patroa917and ignore the messages. Our game plan changes when we play a map called Ambush).

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 Patroa917: Oh shit let’s have suhmo’ fun.  Follow me. (I follow her towards the middle of map near the fence)

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 Patroa917: Ok pull out the pistol and jump up and down on my head.

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 Mzmygrane: Ok what’s supposed to happen?

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 Patroa917: Just wait for it. See what I’m doing is looking down…

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 Mzmygrane: Oh shit hell naw.  Now what do I do?

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 (I have glitched outside of the map which is another griefing tactic ““ stretching the limits of the architecture of the map to your advantage).

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 Patroa917: Kill anybody you see.  Well except me. They won’t know where the hell it’s coming from.  Not unless they see you.  Oh kill yourself when you run outta bullets.

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 Mzmygrane: (Laughing). Hell naw.  Ok.

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 (I successfully kill my teammates and the opposing team.  When I run out of bullets, I kill myself and begin the process over again.  By this point, I have about a dozen messages of players complaining about my behavior within the space.)

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 This griefing tactic further annoyed gamers within the space.  Since I was invisible, the opposing team, as well as my team, was unable to locate and kill me.  This infuriated the gamers within this session and I could continue hearing them within the space as well as see the messages pouring into my inbox.  They were complaining.  The excerpt continues below and we switch to another game to continue griefing.

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 (We change games and invite two other members of Puerto Reekan Killaz to the game lobby.  Blaze is one of the members not welcoming of me and she immediately begins speaking Spanish.  The other members respond in Spanish and I am unable to make out what they’re saying so I wait for instructions. Several minutes pass.  I am sent an invitation to another gaming lobby). 

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 Patroa917: Aight mygrane, first off, my bad. You know how she is. But for the first round we lag switchin then we gotta boot ur ass ““ my bad mama.  We got a clan match comin up. But let’s close out dis chat and get into the lobby.  Don’t be mad at me aight? Hit me up next time you on.

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 Mzmygrane: Nah you good.  It’s ok. I completely understand.

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 I did not speak for the remainder of this match and the members of the clan were speaking Spanish although Patroa917 would speak English and provide me with griefing instructions.  The particular resistance tactic employed here was called lag switching.  It refers to a disruption in the communication between the console and server.  Many internet modems have switches that can be turned on and off which is what Patroa917 did during this match.  It slowed the game play and the players seemed like they were teleporting.  But it allowed her to kill the members of the opposing team.  Once again, the opposing gamers did not appreciate this kind of griefing activity and they began filing complaints.  This organized griefing only continued for another round and then the members of Puerto Reekan Killaz left and started a clan match.

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 Many women of color respond in this ‘griefing’ manner because they have mobilized resources available to them inside the virtual structure of Xbox Live.  Resource mobilization theory depicts activists as rational actors who use sources available to them for their advantage (Marx & McAdam 1994).  They have re-appropriated resources in an attempt to recreate resistance tactics employed by women and people of color in previous social movements.

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 Conscious Daughters were generally more organized around their resistance activities outside of the gaming community.  Their activities included: blogging about issues facing women and people of color in the gaming world; 2) posting stories of discrimination in Xbox Live forums and other gaming forums; 3) sitting in on games and not playing (not disruptive but not productive.  These three activities will be discussed.

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 As was stated, Conscious Daughters were created to actively engage in griefing activities in Xbox Live.  But they quickly discontinued these efforts when they didn’t appear to be effective.  The excerpt below explains this.

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 Mzmygrane: So why did the clan stop using things like spawn killing, glitching, and other griefing kinds of activities?

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 MissUnique: Shit we got tired of getting suspended.  We pay all this money for our memberships and a few people complain and we were the ones getting suspended.

75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 Mzmygrane:  Did y’all ever file complaints against the people who would call you bitch or nigger?

76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 1 ShedaBoss:   Man all the time. But Xbox didn’t care.  Nothing would ever happen to them.  But we ain’t stop filing complaints.  Some people don’t no more.  But we do.

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 The frustrations of this particular clan were situated around the authoritative figure, Xbox Live who did not take heed to their complaints or the negative situations they faced as women and as people of color in the community.  Puerto Reekan Killaz had long given up filing complaints and had just taken matters into their own hands, at the risk of getting their membership suspended.  Members of the Conscious Daughters opted for more organized activities to disrupt the authority as well as publicly shed light on social interactions in Xbox Live.

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 Mzmygrane:  So when y’all stop griefing, what things did you do to continue organizing and resisting oppressions in Xbox Live?

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 ThugMisses:  The next best thing. We took to da streets (laughing). Nah, we started a blog. We started posting our stories in Xbox forums.

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 Mzmygrane: What does that mean? What stories?

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 ThugMisses: Well we tell about what women are going through.  Like how they hear us and start us bitches and stuff.

82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 MissUnique: Yeah she likes doing that. But tell her what happens.

83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 ThugMisses: Well they usually delete the forums as soon as they’re posted.

84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 0 Mzmygrane: Why is that?

85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 MissUnique: Because, and I quote, we are violating terms of service.  Talking about gender and race may incite racism and sexism they claim.

86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 Mzmygrane : Oh wow. So really there’s no where to talk about these issues?

87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 ThugMisses: Nope.  But I keep posting them.  They can’t suspend me from the forum so I post one everyday.

88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 This method of utilizing Xbox’s own forums to discuss issues of race and gender seemed like a great strategy to begin the conversation on race and gender in Xbox Live.  But Microsoft Xbox, as the authority, has not created a forum to address these kinds of issues.  And by deleting the forums, it reifies power structures along the lines of race, gender, and class.

89 Leave a comment on paragraph 89 0 Mzmygrane: What else do you do?

90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 cdXFemmeFataleXcd: Oh yeah, we boycott games.

91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 Mzmygrane: What kinds of games do you boycott?

92 Leave a comment on paragraph 92 0  cdXFemmeFataleXcd: Grand Theft Auto. Any game where girls tits are out or too much skin is showing.

93 Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0 Mzmygrane: So you boycott the games that feature women and people of color stereotypically?

94 Leave a comment on paragraph 94 0 cdXFemmeFataleXcd: Yeah.

95 Leave a comment on paragraph 95 0 Mzmygrane:  So what affect has the boycott had?

96 Leave a comment on paragraph 96 0 cdXFemmeFataleXcd: Mygrane. Women make up a small portion of gamer.  Women of color is even less.  So you tell me.  It ain’t done shit.  Games is still on the shelf.  Other girls still buy the game.  Black dudes ain’t caring what we talk about.  It’s just us by ourself.

97 Leave a comment on paragraph 97 0 The members of Conscious Daughters were motivated by the possibility of effecting change through a boycott.  However, numerically, their efforts were not felt by the larger community.  They even posted announcements urging the larger community to do so.  They informed me that their forums regarding the boycott were removed immediately.  They did continue their effort in their blog space which will be discussed below.

98 Leave a comment on paragraph 98 0 Mzmygrane: Well surely your blog has had some kind of impact.  Being in a public space like the internet and all, right?

99 Leave a comment on paragraph 99 0 ThugMisses: We have a few followers that regularly read it.  But that’s it.

100 Leave a comment on paragraph 100 0 MissUnique: I think people are paying attention to larger issues impact the Black community.  Video gaming just ain’t high on that list.

101 Leave a comment on paragraph 101 0 ThugMisses:  We are also too segregated from the larger female community.  We have different issues.  Theirs is just gender, and ours is gender and race.  On top of other shit.

102 Leave a comment on paragraph 102 0 In spite of the collective activities attempted by this clan, they were still unable to garner significant support from Xbox Live or from the mainstream gaming community to take them seriously.   In 2005, Microsoft representatives even proclaimed that racism was not a major issue on the network (Totilo, 2005).  This trend to overlook issues with the minority gamer transcends to the larger gaming community and the violent video game created about Anita Sarkeesian reveals that the larger gaming community is not willing to deal with women’s issues or issues related to other minority gamers.  They also discussed their disconnect from the larger female gaming community.  Their issue stems from a larger debate within feminism.  There has always been an issue among Black and White feminist in discussing which issues are the most pertinent.  White feminists were focused mostly on gender issues with race secondary ((The Combahee River Collective, 2009).  Black feminist faced similar issues within the larger Black Civil Rights movement.  Black leaders wanted to focus primarily on race and gender issues were secondary (Cole & Guy-Sheftall, 2003).  Neither movement made Black women’s issue central because the nature of their intersecting reality could not be recognized.

103 Leave a comment on paragraph 103 0 Although this did not constitute a significant amount of gameplay, a couple of members of Conscious Daughters revealed their in-game strategies of resistance that weren’t disruptive.  Instead, the resistance mirrored the tactics associated with civil disobedience.  Specifically, MissUnique was urging for members to begin sitting-in on gaming sessions and not engage in gameplay.  She even encouraged members to openly engage with male gamers during the sit-in.  This tactic only elicited strong emotions by the male user as the excerpt below reveals.

104 Leave a comment on paragraph 104 0 Mzmygrane: Ok so it’s only me and you.

105 Leave a comment on paragraph 105 0 MissUnique:  Yeah nobody else likes doing this really because we usually get booted and they file complaints on us.  But I like it.  At least for a second, these ass holes are listening.

106 Leave a comment on paragraph 106 0 Mzmygrane: Ok so explain to me what I do.

107 Leave a comment on paragraph 107 0 MissUnique: Nothing.

108 Leave a comment on paragraph 108 0 Mzmygrane: Come again.

109 Leave a comment on paragraph 109 0 MissUnique: (Laughing) No seriously. We don’t do nothing. Just sit there. But move your controller every now and again.  We don’t wanna time out.

110 Leave a comment on paragraph 110 0 (In this particular example, we were playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 which will remove gamers for inactivity).

111 Leave a comment on paragraph 111 0 Mzmygrane: Can I talk to them?

112 Leave a comment on paragraph 112 0 MissUnique: Hell yeah! Tell them what we’re doing.  They’re just gonna mute you.

113 Leave a comment on paragraph 113 0 Mzmygrane: Well how about I listen to you and follow your lead.

114 Leave a comment on paragraph 114 0 MissUnique: I forget you doing research.  I keep wondering why you acting so dumb like you don’t know what I’m doing.

115 Leave a comment on paragraph 115 0 Mzmygrane: (Laughing) Shut up and just talk.

116 Leave a comment on paragraph 116 0 MissUnique: Ok. Let’s get out of private chat.

117 Leave a comment on paragraph 117 0 (We leave the private chat and enter the larger gaming session)

118 Leave a comment on paragraph 118 0 Hey BizzyBoy, what do you think of girl gamers?

119 Leave a comment on paragraph 119 0 BizzyBoy: Hate em! They suck.

120 Leave a comment on paragraph 120 0 (Other male gamers in session begin laughing)

121 Leave a comment on paragraph 121 0 BigState88: Your score proves it.  Look at your K/D.

122 Leave a comment on paragraph 122 0 (KD refers to the kill to death ratio within a game.  MissUnique’s KD was 0 kills and 8 deaths)

123 Leave a comment on paragraph 123 0 MissUnique: Well I’m not playing for a purpose.  I want guys like you to pay more attention to women and…

124 Leave a comment on paragraph 124 0 (BizzyBoy cuts MissUnique off and begins talking)

125 Leave a comment on paragraph 125 0 BizzyBoy: Oh shut the fuck up.

126 Leave a comment on paragraph 126 0 BigState88: Mute her ass. Like I’m getting ready to.

127 Leave a comment on paragraph 127 0 BizzyBoy: Yeah I’m about to…

128 Leave a comment on paragraph 128 0 MissUnique: You see mygrane, this is why ThugMisses and Boss don’t like doing this shit.  Cuz they don’t listen and sometimes they start acting out [acting in a racist/sexist manner].  At least I didn’t get called bitch.

129 Leave a comment on paragraph 129 0 (We both laugh)

130 Leave a comment on paragraph 130 0 Let’s go back to private chat.  I ain’t getting ready to keep doing this right now.  I ain’t got the energy.

131 Leave a comment on paragraph 131 0 Mzmygrane: So how far can you get usually? With talking to them?

132 Leave a comment on paragraph 132 0 MissUnique: It depends.  If it’s only a few people on the mic, sometimes they listen.  But if it’s a big group of guys, they egg each other on, and I get nowhere.

133 Leave a comment on paragraph 133 0 Our other attempts at sitting-in on games had similar outcomes.  Other clan members explained that this method was not preferred because it usually led being referred to in a derogatory manner and the women of Conscious Daughters did not want to encourage this behavior and activity.  MissUnique also explained that she prefers to wait for people to ask her why she’s not playing rather than initiating the conversation herself, as in the above example.

134 Leave a comment on paragraph 134 0 My observations revealed that the sit-ins were actually not very effective and sometimes had the opposite effect, encouraging more racism and sexism.  The chart below reveals the responses to the sit-ins.

135 Leave a comment on paragraph 135 0 Half of the responses were derogatory and resulted in racism and/or sexism.  These respondents wanted Conscious Daughters to refrain from this type of conversation and began the barrage of insults when they refused.  A significant portion of the chart is devoted to us being removed or booted from the gaming sessions.  This was game specific.  In Gears of War, when we began discussing women’s issues or issues related to people of color, the gaming host would remove us from the session.  In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, we would mostly be removed for inactivity.  MissUnique began instructing us to move our controller’s to ensure we would not be removed.

136 Leave a comment on paragraph 136 0 An equal portion of gamers either responded positively or didn’t respond at all.  The positive response actually meant that they wanted to engage in our conversation further regardless if they agreed or not.  And sometimes we ended up being the only people talking within the space.  Sometimes there were gamers with no mics, or they were in private chat, or they just did not engage in conversation with us.  There was no way to uncover why some gamers did not respond when they were obviously present in the gaming space.

137 Leave a comment on paragraph 137 0 Discussion: Collective Organizing, Individual Resistance, or Asshole Griefers?

138 Leave a comment on paragraph 138 0 Regardless of the tactics employed by either clan, the larger Xbox Live community was just not aware of why they were engaging in this behavior.  So should their strategies to dismantle racism and sexism within Xbox Live be viewed as collective organization and resistance? Or do their actions resemble the harrassing activity of griefing?  Even the sit-in activity could be viewed as griefing if a gamer deems it disruptive to his enjoyment.  So how should women of Xbox Live be viewed?

139 Leave a comment on paragraph 139 0 I contend that their methods are actually reminiscent of groups who traditionally protest dominant structures; their resistance strategies, no matter the choice, are a means to combat the oppressions experienced within the space.  Both clans typify the four tenets of Black feminist standpoint theory which allowed them to reach meaningful solutions to the inequalities that impede their lives.  In reality, these solutions are temporary.  Long term solutions can only be identified by Microsoft.  And as Black Feminist thought explains, oppressed populations lack control needed to reframe and reconceptualize their realities as is needed in Xbox Live.

140 Leave a comment on paragraph 140 0 The third and fourth themes of Black feminist thought discuss the necessity of actively engaging with the community to resist dominant structures present in the lives of women as well as recognizing the “distinct cultural heritage that gives them the energy and skills to resist and transform daily discrimination” (Taylor, 1998, p. 235).  The coupling of these two themes is reflective of the women within this study.  Specifically, Puerto Reekan Killaz have revolted and lashed out forcefully (by co-opting resources available to them within Xbox live).  This modification of resource mobilization theory was a means to resist the oppressive structures impeding their full inclusion into the community.  Unfortunately, the structures that hold privileges within the space ““ the default gamer and Xbox Live, defined their activities as griefing (Xbox Live even suspended several of their accounts for violating Terms of Service).  But I found their efforts more collective and organized and not irrational (although they did not communicate this purpose).   Their actions originated from the intersecting oppressions they experienced hence the term resistance griefing.  These women have used resources available to them to thwart their negative experiences and fight back against the dominant structures within the space.

141 Leave a comment on paragraph 141 1 Members of Conscious Daughters mirror tactics also employed in previous social movements.  Conscious Daughters recognize that their attempts to dismantle racism and sexism are futile within the Xbox Live gaming space.  Even the sit-in, as a collective activity, fell upon deaf ears.  But Conscious Daughters utilized other means outside of the gaming space that constituted the bulk of their resistance activities.  By creating websites and posting stories of women in gaming forums, they are trying to get the message of inequality out to the larger gaming community.

142 Leave a comment on paragraph 142 0 Conclusion

143 Leave a comment on paragraph 143 0 Hegemonic imagery has created a false ideology in understanding women of color.  This imagery of the woman of color manifests itself in digital spaces as these images are to be upheld ““ from the dominant groups view.  In digital spaces, this dominant group is still the white male (Everett, 2009; McQuivey, 2001).  So when women of color encounter males in the space, the passive woman reflected in constructions of white womanhood should prevail.  And if males do not encounter the asexual mammy, they immediately refer to mediated constructions of Black women such as Bitch, Ho, Sapphire, etc who are not passive, yielding, or supportive (Collins, 2000).  Because video gaming has been constructed as an adolescent, White, male activity, the experiences of women and people of color are often overlooked.  As Collins (2000) explains, being a member of an oppressed group places one in a position to see the world differently.  However,

144 Leave a comment on paragraph 144 0 …their lack of control over the apparatuses of society that sustain ideological hegemony makes the articulation of their self-defined standpoint difficult (Collins, 2000, p. 185).

145 Leave a comment on paragraph 145 0 However, a particular advantage presents itself with the diffusion of information technologies, providing particular advantages to women and people of color.  One of the advantages is the ability to create virtual spaces and maintain control of those spaces which is what the women in my study have done.  These spaces have the potential to foster the development of a group standpoint negating the impact of dominant ideology.  However, many of the tactics employed by the women within this study were merely employed for personal satisfaction and were not used to resist the larger structures or make change within the space.  When griefing would occur, the male gamers had no idea why they were being harassed in this manner.  The women of Puerto Reekan Killaz would not express their purpose and had no intention of doing so.  This was unfortunate because their tactics could have been employed by the larger marginalized community to generate a critical mass of disgruntled gamers.  And when more productive attempts at organization are tried, they are met with resistance by the authority, as the deletion of the forums revealed.  And Microsoft, as the authority within the space revealed through its silent stance on inequalities within the space, there is a continued desire to ignore larger issues or race, racism, and inequality in our colorblind society (Leonard, 2009).

146 Leave a comment on paragraph 146 0 Works Cited

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189 Leave a comment on paragraph 189 0 Notes

190 Leave a comment on paragraph 190 0 [1] I created names for these clans that would not reveal actual clan names and protect their identities although I attempted to create names that were reflective of the actual clan.

191 Leave a comment on paragraph 191 0 [2] Members of Puerto Reekan Killaz referred to themselves as Black Latina and gave themselves the term Blatina.

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