Encounters at the Imaginal Crossroads: An Exploration of the Experiences of Women in Role-playing Games
Doctoral Dissertation by Christopher Justin Dyszelski, Miami University.
This study was a critical, archetypal, feminist ethnography and psychological inquiry into
the experiences of women in tabletop role-playing gaming and its culture. Informed by
performance ethnographic practice and the spirit of these games, it is written as an adventurous
journey into and encounter with these experiences based on participant observation, interviews
with gaming professionals, an online questionnaire of 428 gamers, and series of interviews with
Ethnographically, this study documents the history and experiences of women in the
culture of gaming. It presents profiles of a diversity of female gamers and explores historically
the ways that women have established themselves as members of this culture and shaped this
traditionally male dominated hobby. It also examines a multiplicity of opinions about and
experiences of sexism, prejudice, and discrimination of women in gaming. While demonstrating
the progress in the games and their culture to become more inclusive and welcoming to women,
it shows there is still far to go. It also demonstrates how despite the possibility and creative
potential for gaming and its culture to imagine completely new social worlds, the same power
dynamics and social structures are recreated in the games, groups, and culture.
Psychologically, the study uses archetypal, relational, and pluralistic models of the self to
demonstrate the complex imaginal relationship between self and character and the notion that
role-playing games can be transformational liminoid spaces. The study explored the multiplicity
of three participants, through a series of interviews, one series with the player, one interacting
with each participant in role as one of their characters, and then a final series reflecting on the
experience of the two previous interviews, the process, and the themes that were discussed.
These interviews demonstrate three different relationships between self and character, as well as
the ways that those imaginal relationships have impacted the lives of these women in powerful
ways that reach beyond just fun and games.
Dyszelski Christopher Justin.pdf
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