The research article written by Neta Yodovich and Jinju Kim debates on the feminization of backseat gaming by researching the gaming review YouTube channel, called Girlfriend Reviews (from now on called GR). The GR channel mainly consists of game reviews where the girlfriend usually narrates and explains, whether you – or your significant other – should play the game in question or not. The channel provides a unique perspective of a male gamer’s girlfriend as a “backseat gamer” (someone who watches video games rather than plays them oneself), which Yodovich and Kim think is a favorable way to explore how women can access the gaming community, where they usually are minimized and, treated with suspicion. Through analyzing comments, they explore how viewers engage with the GR channel and why they support or approve it. They also consider how a successful YouTube channel can challenge the “girlfriend” persona in the gaming community.
To ground their research methods, Yodovich and Kim present a short literature review on female gamers, in which they go over women’s continuous stigma, harassment, and marginalization. Their study applied data mining, which was conducted on January 19th, 2021, and text analysis to understand people’s attitudes towards both female and backseat gamers through YouTube comments posted in the GR channel. They decided to focus on the most popular videos based on views, comments and likes but also on videos that received negative response and therefore 16 videos were chosen for the analysis. Their main approaches to the rendition of the data were sentiment and thematic analysis and by combining both methods they received a more precise understanding of the results.
The results of their research indicate that the viewers gravitate towards the channel for three different reasons; (1) the girlfriend is a supportive backseat gamer, (2) who holds no previous knowledge on gaming and, (3) the channel does not engage with feminist discourse. Majority of the comments were positive and, encouraging and, the girlfriend was generally appreciated because she did not invade or deteriorate the well-kept borders of gaming. Highest level of anger was related to the girlfriend’s lack of knowledge in gaming or when the narrator departed from her “friendly girlfriend” role and offered a more socially conscious critique. These findings indicate women’s vulnerability in male-dominated communities, like gaming and gaming reviews. They argue that being a supportive “backseat gamer” provides women an alternative and easily accessed pathway into the male-dominant gaming community. By presenting oneself as someone who is just watching lowers women’s chances of getting attacked by other gamers.
The contribution of their research article to game studies is the focus on backseat gaming that has not received as much academic interest as “active” gaming. In their research they did not explore minorities such as people of color or LGBT+ people, so they encourage future research to examine other marginalized identities.
Pictures. YouTube. (3.10.2022). Screenshots from Girlfriend Reviews’ channel. Taken by the author. https://www.youtube.com/c/GirlfriendReviews/videos
Yodovich, N. & Kim, J. (2022). Expoloring the Feminization of Backseat Gaming Through Girlfriend Reviews YouTube Channel. Games and Culture, 17(5), 795-815. https://doi.org/10.1177/15554120211056124