Transgressive Gender Play: Profiles and Portraits of Girl Players in a Tween Virtual World

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Conference Paper

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Transgressive Gender Play: Anticipatory Flirting and Dating in a Tween Virtual World

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Little is known about how girl players navigate through virtual worlds, negotiate their identity, and challenge cultural norms and practices. We investigated over 500 players in a science-themed tween virtual world called with girls being the majority (68%) of its 1.5 million registered players. Using logfile data collected over a six-month long period, we identified three distinct groups: core gamers (7% of all players), semi-core gamers (34% of players), and peripheral gamers (59% of players). We found that all groups participated in common practices but that core players also participated in non-traditional, transgressive practices. These included private flirting with other players and aggressive scamming of others for personal profit as well as public denials of such activities because they violated gender and social norms. Often hidden, these facets of girls' play indicate the value of virtual worlds as digital publics that offer youth opportunities to engage in identity exploration and border crossing.

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