Reorienting representation : gender and space in Ocarina of Time

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2015-05

Authors

Mallindine, Jayme Dale

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Abstract

Gendered video game spaces, spaces in which particular types of gendered performance and play are considered welcomed, appropriate, or intended, has been a topic of conversation in game studies since the 90s. While previous research on this topic successfully broadened the discussion on gender representation to include virtual space, it also simultaneously narrowed it by either implying feminine game spaces primarily attract woman players (and vice versa) or by forcing spaces into a "feminine-masculine" binary and leaving little room for overlap of gendered spaces. In what follows, by focusing on a key Legend of Zelda title, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I broaden the discussion of representation beyond purely narrative or visual gender cues by bringing together theories of gender performativity with research on gendered game space to more thoroughly nuance what is specific about gender representation when presented via the medium of a video game. By closely analyzing overlapping gendered spatialities within Ocarina of Time, we not only reinfuse gender with a sense of malleability destabilized from a concrete connection to specific types of character or player bodies, we’re then also forced to confront the historical privileging of masculine game spaces over feminine ones. The inclusion of multiple gendered spatialities within an older game such as Ocarina of Time means that games, rather than having such a clear cut history as a hotbed of singularly masculine coded digital playlands, have also contained alternative or additional gendered readings that have yet to be fully fleshed out in scholarship.

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