Gamers, gender, and cruel optimism: the limits of social identity constructs in The Guild
Feminist Media Studies
a Communication studies, university of michigan, ann arbor, usa; b english, michigan state university, Lansing, usa ABSTRACT Video game culture has a long, ongoing history of problems with representation and inclusivity, as a wide variety of forces have constructed video games and gaming as masculine. Against this background, the popular gamer-oriented web series The Guild (2007-2013) appears to offer a unique counterperspective, presenting a gender-diverse cast and focusing primarily on female
... primarily on female protagonist Cyd "Codex" Sherman. As such, the show could potentially diversify popular conceptions of gamers. Through a close reading of The Guild, however, we demonstrate that it fails to do so. More specifically, the show's portrayal of gamer identity serves as a form of cruel optimism, presenting it as an ideal that promises game players a consistent subculture and a sense of belonging, but ultimately traps them in narrow roles and identity constructs. Furthermore, the show's gamer ideal also reproduces particular forms of gendered inequalities that posit aggressive, competitive masculinity as superior to both more passive masculinities and all forms of femininity. Overall, this leads The Guild to reinforce gaming culture's existing problems with sexism and regressive stereotypes. Because of this, the show presents a relation of cruel optimism, assuming the appearance of positive change while failing to deliver on it.