Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Guillermo Grenier

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Maria Aysa-Lastra

Second Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Vrushali Patil

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dionne Stephens

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


gaming, video games, virtual worlds, virtual communities, gender, female identity, world of warcraft, mmorp, mmo

Date of Defense



This dissertation examines how gender is expressed and performed in the virtual gaming community of World of Warcraft. Players were approached through the medium of the game and through various on-line bulletin boards to answer surveys and open-ended interview questions about their experiences as a female player or with female players in this virtual society. In addition to answering questions, this project involved participant observations within several different types of realms or servers in World of Warcraft in order to gain a better understanding of community dynamics. The premise for this research is working through an idealistic notion that virtual communities might break down gender lines through allowing members to pick their gender or doing away with biological differences in gender altogether. This research hopes to dissect this idea and, furthermore, fill an important gap in existing sociological studies about virtual societies and games by making the argument that gender stereotypes carry over from the physical world into virtual spaces and, consequently, affect the vabried interactions of players within this virtual community as well as the gender performance of female players, in particular. Observations and game design suggests that many of the aesthetic principles of the female avatars available in World of Warcraft cater to attracting heterosexual male players. Clothing and armor is revealing and female avatars are highly sexualized not just through appearance, but through programmed behaviors in the game. This research examines the effects of such pre-conditioned parameters on the population of this top ranked game.





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