Combining discourse theory & practice in MA thesis on gaming

Writing an MA thesis does not necessarily have to be merely theoretical endeavour.

Miika Rautiainen’s recently completed MA thesis, entitled Gender, identity and representation in video games (2015), innovatively combines discourse theory and teaching practice: as part of his thesis, Rautiainen has planned a discourse-theory oriented course for Finnish EFL upper secondary school students. The course introduces students to certain key terms in discourse analysis by discussing gender representation in video games through various media examples and exercises. Pedagogically the course draws on CLIL and collaborative learning. A perfect way to put discourse theory to practice and orient towards working life!

Rautiainen’s thesis, including the course package, is available on the Jyväskylä University electronic archive, JYX: The thesis and the course package are in English.


A demonstration at Comic-Con.

A gaming demonstration at Comic-Con. (C) Sandy Huffaker (2012) for The New York Times

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  • I think it is a positive thing that people are starting to at least consider the gender dynamics and and their influence on consumers. The kids are actually quite observant, I think they can learn about gender even in secondary school.

  • Using video games as teaching material is probably something that will get many students interested.
    Based on my own experiences I can say that the CLIL-method of teaching is a very effective way to teach students a foreign language and the subject of the course.

  • I’m glad people are doing studies concerning this topic. I personally find it very important to discuss gender representation in such a field as video games (movies being a very close second), because it’s a field more traditionally dominated by men, even though women have been involved with gaming since it first started. Also, introducing new, complicated topics through something young people enjoy, such as video games, is an excellent way to teach.

  • This is an interesting idea. I think many people might agree that the video game industry has a lot to learn when it comes to representing each gender equally. The method discussed here could be a useful means of promoting equality and, also, help in the study of discourses, as well.

  • I think using video games is a very clever way to get students to think about gender representation because it makes a subject that might seem boring a lot more interesting. By doing this children also might also put some serious thought in the matter due to it being presented in a form of video games instead of just as an gender issue. I think video games are a good tool to use in teaching and I think they can be used to teach other topics that might be hard to understand or that seem uninteresting.

  • An interesting topic with practical applications as well. I look forward to where this goes with interest.

    As others said before me in the comments applying CLIL-methods will likely get students to be more interested as well.

  • Really interesting and relevant topic. I find it really cool that video games are slowly being noticed as more than just a hobby for young boys. Rautiainen had noticed a lot of similar points and ideas about gender that have come to my mind during my years of gaming. The part on page 12: “As for the importance of platform, Apperley (2006: 10) notes that a game designed for one platform (e.g. Playstation 3) might not be mechanically the same if it is ported to another platform…” really bothered me and got stuck in my head. I didn’t feel like it was relevant for the text and the points Rautiainen made didn’t really have any research behind them. He gives Dark Souls as an example of a bad PC port. The control problems of Dark Souls were actually fixed on the same day the game was launched for PC by modders and coders within the gaming community. Plus this whole “bad controller port” argument became pretty much obsolete on third generation consoles since these new controllers work on USB connection. All you have to do is plug your third generation controller (or any gamepad) into the computer’s USB port to fix these issues (in the case you can’t find a mod for keyboard and mouse). The actual problems of poorly made PC ports don’t have anything to do with control schemes anymore but are more connected to FPS (frames per second) issues like lag and screen tearing usually caused by Vsync and locked/limited refresh rates. I had to go back and actually read the paper by Thomas H. Apperley (2006) to see if he had mentioned the visual issues. Apperley did point out problems with graphic interface on the mentioned chapter 10 of Genre and game studies: Toward a critical approach to video game genres but Rautiainen skipped these for some reason. Again, I don’t think that this has any relevance to discourse theory and practice but if you’re going to point out the importance of gaming platforms when it comes to game design and development (in an academic text), you should include these points in my opinion.

  • As far as I’ve heard, CLIL learning is actually quite effective and video games are indeed rather popular especially among young people. Therefore consciously using video games for teaching is certainly not a bad idea. Besides, video games have gotten quite a bit of criticism for gender representation over time so there’s surely enough material to build on to get a course out of it.

  • The outcome of the Anita Sarkeesian’s campaign didn’t really come as a surprise. This is a well-known and documented phenomenon for women who are politically etc active. These sexist slurs and hate mail are just a small part of the openly misogynist environment that women have to face everyday when operating in male-dominant fields (such as the gaming community). Maybe we can also perceive this as an outcome of the changing male gender image; some men feel like their “last place where they can be men” is under attack and see female gamers as a threat to their community.

  • Combining the somewhat trendy and current topic of gender equality and gaming, which has seen increase in use over the years by people of all ages is an effective way to garner interest and attention. The course is an innovative take on pedagogy, and hopefully an easily approachable topic for students to take part in.

  • Video games can definitely be seen as a prolific ground for discussion on gender issues. As suggested in previous comments, I agree that they can also serve as an effective means of introducing students to the concept of discourse analysis. Using games instead of traditional teaching materials is sure to make this often challenging topic more approachable. Naturally, addressing these kinds of gender equality themes among students is significant in itself.

  • I think it is a very interesting idea to use video games to raise awareness on gender issues. I think this will make many young people much more interested in the subject as their lives are so combined to video games nowadays. There should be more teaching through video games as that would certainly increase students desire to study.

  • This definitely seems like an innovative and interesting way of teaching something important. I’m sure the students would be very interested and involved since video games are probably an important part of their lives already.

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