Cite as: Abel, Christie. 2019. Research Program Description. University of California. November.

Christie Abel is a 2nd year PhD student in the University of California Irvine’s Department of Informatics working with Professor katie salen. Her research explores masculinity in gaming spaces. Her research is currently focused on abating the toxicity in gaming spaces, particuarly those for middle and high school students. She is also working on a project that tracks the feminization of marketing materials through Horoscope and Astrology arcade machines/games with Dr. Aaron Trammell. She comes to UCI after completing a BA in Science & Technology Studies and Sociology at Cornell, where she wrote her senior thesis on adolescent identity presentation on Snapchat under the supervision Dr. Trevor Pinch.

Research Program Description

Christie Abel's research program centers on gender and inclusion in video game spaces. She is interested in understanding the ways in which gender is performed, inacted and assumed in video game space, with an eye to the historical forms of othering that stem from other tech and game spaces. She is currently interested in the ways that esports teams in high schools and middle schools in the United States can recreate those same forms of exclusion and toxicity and how we can critically examine esports-based interventions in high schools.

Methods and Data

While my methods are mainly ethnograhpic, my research has taken a turn to explore historical artifacts and digital media. Ethnographically, I'm interested in critically examining game spaces. Of a particular interest right now is critically examining game-based interventions in middle schools and high schools, which will involve participant observation with students, administrators, parents, the people leading the interventions, and representatives from video game companies.

My research includes various forms of data, from interviews, participant observations, historical artifacts (such as images, advertisments, trade show advertisments, legal proceedings, (and probably more things as time goes on), blog posts, forum posts, popular news articles, YouTube (and other sites like Twitch) videos/chat logs, (and really anything I can get my hands on related to gender and games).

Employees of Riot Games in West LA stage a walkout this past May after claims of unequal pay between men and women workers. In December, it was announced that Riot Games will pay $10 million in a gender discrimination settlement. Photo by Dania Maxwell of the Los Angeles Times.

While the prize pools are steadily rising and esports are becoming massively popular, they are still worth much less than traditional sports in the US. However, this is expected to change soon. Source: Washington Post, 2018.

The prize money in esports has climbed to some of the highest available. Source: Washington Post, 2018.