Gaming While Black: The Social Identity of Black Gamers
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Tabletop game, such as Dungeons and Dragons, are interactive worlds in which a person creates an avatar representation to explore fictional worlds. These avatars provide fertile ground for a person to explore different identities and different identity traits. Due to this unique interaction between individual and character tabletop roleplaying games offer sociologist a unique chance to observe the complex interactions that occur in identity creation. While gaming has been used to study identity formation in a more general sense, it has yet to be used to examine the creation of racial identities. To explore the unique ways in which racial identities may form and be challenged I conducted thirteen in depth interviews with black gamers. This study finds that black gamers engage in a delicate dance of balancing their racial identity against the norms and expectations of what other people consider to be black. Drawing on elements in black culture that they find to be positive and uplifting the gamers in this study sought to engage in their black identities in fictional worlds, even transferring their racial identities onto other aspects of their gaming experience such as non-human character types. They not only explored what it might be like to have different black identities but also explored what it would be like to experience blackness sans the negative stigmas that can come with being black in America. Finally the gamers in this study resisted media driven essentialistic notions of blackness in order to advance a black identity that they felt was more true than the one that others expected of them.