Social difference as action. A nexus analysis of gender and ability in World of Warcraft game culture

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

University of Oulu, Linnanmaa campus, lecture hall IT115, Zoom link:

Topic of the dissertation

Social difference as action. A nexus analysis of gender and ability in World of Warcraft game culture

Doctoral candidate

MA Marjukka Käsmä

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, Research Unit for Languages and Literature

Subject of study



Associate Professor Malene Charlotte Larsen, Aalborg University


Docent Leena Kuure, University of Oulu

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Mistrust and camaraderie in an online game

This dissertation considers the ways in which inequal access to the game World of Warcraft comes about. In particular, it explores inequality related to gender and social ability.

It finds that gender and social ability are connected with the game environment and with players’ beliefs about what is conducive to camaraderie in the game. Players sometimes justify discriminating against others based on these beliefs. Some players feel that the presence of women and socially anxious players in the game is disruptive of team spirits in different ways. Femininity and social anxiety are also thought to indicate a lack of game play skills. Discriminating behaviour is not universal, however, and many players are also fair and tolerant.

Marginalized players mirror themselves against these harmful beliefs and in doing so find new ways of seeing each other and being together. In this way, the game space enables the creation of safe spaces for everyone.

The research process leading to this dissertation was ethnographic in nature, and so it was based on the researcher’s long-term participation in the game environment and elsewhere in online game culture. The materials gathered in this way were analysed to understand how the game environment, the players and the relationships between players create the social characteristics of this particular game.

Video gaming is now one of the most common forms of entertainment enjoyed by all demographics. As a societal phenomenon, gaming has become as important as literature, the movie industry or journalism.

Online gaming is in many ways similar to other online platforms. Despite the opportunities for involvement and participation which the internet enables, many marginalised groups find themselves unable to participate equally online. The findings of this dissertation can be used when planning and creating online spaces with the aim of ensuring maximum online accessibility in education, civic services, commercial applications and, of course, in gaming.
Last updated: 1.3.2023