Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Daisy Rooks

Commitee Members

Jackson Bunch, Beth Hubble, Joel Iverson


gaming, roleplaying game, gender, performance, hidden transcripts, communicative action


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Gender and Sexuality | Sociology of Culture


Much of the existing research on gaming suggests that women are often excluded from or discriminated against in gaming communities. However, few scholars focus on women’s positive experiences within those communities, and even fewer examine tabletop and live-action roleplaying games. In this thesis, I utilized Jurgen Habermas’ theory of communicative action, Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity, and James C. Scott’s theory of hidden transcripts to analyze how in-game and out-of-game comradery among players created a space in which passive resistance against normative gender expectations was possible. Specifically, the question I wanted to answer was how do women communicatively enact passive resistance in roleplaying games? In order to answer this question, I interviewed twenty-four women about their experiences playing Dungeons and Dragons and live-action roleplay and conducted participant. During the interviews, many interviewees described the gendered expectations that they were subjected to in their everyday lives. They also described how supportive gaming groups allowed them to subvert those expectations through roleplay. They did this by adopting two distinct roleplay styles: Oppositional Personas and Reflective Characters. I concluded that although few participants overtly challenged gender expectations with Oppositional Personas, many used Reflective Characters to passively resist gender expectations. In-game resistance was not relegated to that arena; it had a positive impact on the participants’ everyday lives, e.g., gaining closure from past trauma and creating equitable racial policies in LARP companies.



© Copyright 2018 Rachel M. Just