games * children * play


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Presentation for the SA Association of Women Graduates, May 2014. My PhD is available at

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  • Certain styles of gaming may be considered as hegemonic for girls and boys respectively and these norms were certainly both reproduced and challenged in the children’s peer groups at the holiday club. For the most part, the children’s gender tactics primarily reproduced existing gender identities and power relations. Despite games also providing a space for transgression, this study confirms of the importance of hypermasculinity and heteronormativity for this group of children.

    Borderwork is not peaceful, nor is ludic gendering a peaceful issue
    BUT gaming is not all about violence
    Cross-sex play has the potential to engage children in less gender-stereotypical play
  • games * children * play

    1. 1. Dr Nicola Pallitt Presentation for the SA Association of Women Graduates Peace in our times? 24 May 2014 games * children * play
    2. 2. Play in ‘less peaceful’ times…
    3. 3. Generals, John Heywood, 1985
    4. 4. Brothers in Arms, John Heywood, 1985
    5. 5. ‘Playing house’ for boys?
    6. 6. ?
    7. 7. Caribbean kids playing gangsters with toy guns in bocas del toro Panama, Kalle Ståhlberg, 2013
    8. 8. Candy Cigarette, Sally Mann, 1989
    9. 9. Anna and Virginia, Sally Mann, 1991
    10. 10. Mimicry / imitation For children, the aim is to imitate adults. This explains the success of the toy weapons and miniatures which copy the tools, engines, arms, and machines used by adults. The little girl plays her mother’s role as cook, laundress, and ironer. The boy makes believe he is a soldier, musketeer, policeman, pirate, cowboy, Martian, etc. (Caillois, [1961] 2001, p. 21)
    11. 11. ‘Hidden transcript’ of play …presses against and tests the limits of what may be safely ventured in terms of a reply to a public transcript of deference and conformity. (Scott, 1990, p. 157-158).
    12. 12. Importance of mimicry & parody in children’s play The Opies: role of parody and mimicry in children’s play changes in response to socio- historical developments Children “reflect their immediate environments and often parody adult behaviour” (Harrop-Allin 2010, p. 161) while also working out cross-gender interactions and sexual roles (2010, p. 109).
    13. 13. Ludic gendering
    14. 14. Violence & masculinity
    15. 15. The Sims 2 and sexuality• The Sims 2 play episodes • Girls played lesbian family • ‘Make out’ • heterosexual romance • Boys’ played ‘dress up’ • Police sexuality • ‘These clothes are so gay’ • Boys don’t wear skinny jeans • Making fun of the bum
    16. 16. Where the girls are…
    17. 17. TheVampireWedding Mark: Wait – you hold L2, now you hold R2 and like make yourselves look like you’re holding hands. Just do it. [Archie hits Tara’s sackgirl instead, the children laugh.] Just hold hands! I want to see what they look like. No, just do it – move your hands down. Stop it Archie! [Archie makes his sack-groom run around in the background, he does not want to hold hands with his sack-bride. Joey hums the wedding march. Archie gives in and comes closer and they try to make their hands touch. Tara hits Archie’s sackboy and they all laugh.] Don’t! I want to see what it looks like. Archie: I don’t. Mark: Now go close, now do it. Joey: You may kiss the bride! Mark: Go a little further away. There we go. (But Archie runs away.) No, go in front of her, then she’s not able to hit you. Kiss or hit the bride? Tara, Archie, Mark and Joey play Little Big Planet (Holiday club, 8 April 2011)
    18. 18. Are these play episodes ‘peaceful’?What can children’s gameplay tell us?
    19. 19. Conclusion • ‘Ludic gendering’ of particular games was appropriated into children’s play and peer relationships, while mediating their understandings of gender and sexuality • heteronormativity and gender norms in children’s peer cultures. • familiar playground practices and borderwork (Thorne, 1993), which characterize children’s non- digital play, are still very salient and cannot be ignored • importance of hypermasculinity and heteronormativity for this group of children
    20. 20. Game Over? … what exists is far from filling all possible spaces… What can be played? –Michael Foucault (1997, p. 139-140)
    21. 21. More info… • Email: • Twitter: @nicolapallitt • Thesis available at