This last month or so I’ve been sitting on some exciting news: the backbone of my master’s thesis has been accepted into a collection of essays on Minecraft. The chapter I am writing for the book will talk about the conventions of gender in the game as a place to think about the utility of “genderlessness” as a “gameplay mechanic.”
What’s with the ” ” ? you might be asking yourself—this essay is inspired by Notch’s public reflection on gender, wherein he referred to gender as a “gameplay mechanic.”
If it wasn’t for the fact that the default Minecraft character is referred to as “Minecraft Guy” and that I once jokingly answered “Steve?” when asked what his* name was, Minecraft would be a game where gender isn’t a gameplay element.
The human model is intended to represent a Human Being. Not a male Human Being or a female Human Being, but simply a Human Being. The blocky shape gives it a bit of a traditional masculine look, but adding a separate female mesh would just make it worse by having one specific model for female Human Beings and male ones. That would force players to make a decisions about gender in a game where gender doesn’t even exist.
All the other mobs in the game are genderless and usually exhibit the most prominent traits of both genders. …
Also, as a fun side fact, it means every character and animal in Minecraft is homosexual because there’s only one gender to choose from. Take THAT, homophobes!
I hope to trouble notions of who determines the gender of players and their avatars, and how the setting in Minecraft is suggestive of an interpretation of Steve’s gender (i.e. why it is, perhaps, no accident that Steve is popularly perceived as a dude).
To anyone who may not know me personally, I am very excited about writing this essay—I openly adore the game. The first aca-paper I wanted to write for publication was conceptualized 2 years ago when the game was in one of the earlier beta versions. At the time I considered the playscape as an existential plane—perhaps if I was more into philosophy I would have gotten around to actually writing about it. Alas…
As an aside, it’s equally exciting for me to now know who is also doing research on the game—sometimes the videogame research world seems like a small place. At Oregon, doubly so. I look forward to sharing more about the collection + who is in it as we get closer to publication deadlines.