Lipstick Bullets: Labour & Gender in Professional Gamer Self-Branding

Andrew Zolides

Abstract


With the growing professionalisation of electronic sports (or e-sports), the individuals who compete are, like their more ‘traditional’ sport counterparts, becoming celebrities. Actual competition is a fraction of the labour a professional gamer undertakes to earn a living and generate a self-brand – involving a complex arrangement of sponsorships, team-memberships, and digital reputation management. Indeed, taking part in e-sports can be understood as another mode of celebrity-creation within a particular fan community.

A key vector to the persona formation of professional gamers is gender. Female professional gamers must navigate additional hurdles than their male counterparts in the creation and management of their self-brand and attempts to commoditise their personas. Female gamers carefully negotiate and perform their gender while maintaining their status as a competitor and influencer in gaming’s highly masculinised culture. This performativity places these young women in a precarious position not just in terms of economic stability, but also in terms of their gendered identity.

This paper compares the online personas of professional gamers Matt “NaDeSHoT” Haag and Kelly “MrsViolence” Kelley, analysing their social media presences and mainstream media appearances. Reframing the labour of professional gamers as one of building a commodifiable work persona can help us better understand the economically precarious position in which young female gamers find themselves.


Keywords


branding, e-sports, video games, labour, professional gaming, social media, gender, persona

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21153/ps2015vol1no2art467

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