Book Summary: “You play like a girl” by Elena Bertozzi

She teaches, makes video games, and writes novels? I’m in love.

For one of my classes this summer, I had write annotations/summaries for several books.  I enjoyed many of them and I thought that the annotations might be useful for other people, so I will be posting them here.  They’re somewhat rough, but considering how much everyone loves when someone at FtB posts about feminism, I doubt it matters.

Bertozzi, E. (2011). “You Play Like a Girl”: Cross-Gender Competition and the Uneven Playing Field. In G. Dines, & J.M. Humez (Eds.), Gender, Race, and Class in the Media: A Critical Reader (pp. 443-454). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Question(s) Investigated: What is the environment in video games like for women?  Does gamer culture encourage cross-gender competition?

Time Period: 2000s

Geographic Region: US

Subjects studied: Video games, competition, gender relations


Women play as many video games as men, but different ones, generally ones that involve less developed skill.  Because gamer culture and the culture at large are so gendered, even in gender-neutral gameplay, the gender of the players impacts the way that the game is played – especially when there is a lot of interacting with other players (444).  Civility is taught as something men should always show women, and violence towards women is abhorred (445), yet violence against female characters may be necessary when playing against women.

Men are also extremely hostile when they are beaten by a woman (446).  Women and girliness are associated with gayness and weakness and are to be avoided at all costs – to play a woman means that victory will be hollow and loss will be humiliating (447).  Women know this as well and it makes them uncomfortable when playing against men (448).Friendly open aggression between men is ok, but there’s no equivalent for women and no equivalent for inter-gender interaction.  Women do not use games to establish a dominance hierarchy the same way that men do; women use beauty not skill for their hierarchies (449).

The article ends with suggests as to how to make the gamer community and gaming in general more friendly to women and to crossgender gaming.  Normalize crossgender play, create a broader range of female character types, etc.

Resources used:

Alix, A. (2007) ‘Online Game Talk and the Articulation of Maleness,’ in Flow TV 5

DeBoer, K.J. (2004). Gender and Competition: How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently.

Levy, A. (2005) Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.

Lucas, K. and Sherry, J.L. (2004) ‘Sex Differences in Video Game Play: A Communication-Based Explanation’. (this link is a pdf)

Taylor, T.L. (2005) Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture.


And here’s a video of her talking about teaching and play: ”

If there were more women involved in making games, then we would see a lot of different kinds of games. We will also have more women running corporations that run technology. We’ll have a female Bill Gates and a female Steve Jobs.

Book Summary: “You play like a girl” by Elena Bertozzi

One thought on “Book Summary: “You play like a girl” by Elena Bertozzi

  1. 1

    As a gamer who grew up around plenty of female gamers (Isolated from the sexist aspects of gamer culture as a result), I was always disappointed by the amount of raw sexism often on display in gaming (ESPECIALLY in places like the fighting game community); so far, the success of projects like Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women, and events like the women in gaming Panel at PAX East last April indicate that progress is being made, but we’ve still got a long way to go…

    I’ll have to pick this one up sometime, hopefully I can put some of the advice to use in my local gaming community.

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