Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Sociology

First Advisor's Name

Guillermo Grenier

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Benjamin Smith

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Laurie Shrage

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Nelson Varas-Diaz

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Date of Defense



This dissertation explores gender codes within the intersection of two American pop culture staples, video games and rock music, by conducting a feminist analysis of two video games (Rock Band and Rocksmith). Both video games and rock music have had their share of feminist academic critique: Musicologists point out how lack of canonical inclusion, gendered attitudes towards instruments, and messages from supporting media create an unwelcome environment for women to pursue a rock music career. Game studies scholars have examined similar attitudes, including a lack of women represented in both the video games and the studios that create them.

Through a mix of creator and player interviews, participant observation, content analysis, and autoethnography, I look at the intersection of these two literatures (the rock music video game) to see how gender is hard-coded into the game, and what opportunities, if any, exist for subversion of societal and industry gender norms. Through not just looking at the game as text, I present a more “thick description” of a video game that takes into account the creators of the games, the players that play them, and a researcher that occupies multiple identities within the space. I argue that, in an effort to replicate an authentic rock musician experience in a video game, Rock Band and Rocksmith often replicate a lot of these gendered messages. The games’ text and set list emphasize a male-centric rock music canon. Rocksmith’s original whiskey-soaked visual design and marketing skew heavily towards an older male demographic. However, resistances to these codes exist in both the players who defy expectations by showing up to perform and compete, as well as the creators who actively work to make these games more inclusive via changes to future games as well as inclusive hiring practices, marketing, and music sourcing (with varying degrees of success).





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