Organized Panel Session
Supported by technological advances, videogames have risen as online spaces where players can co-create their own emergent virtual communities. Based on a year-long ethnographic study in Tokyo of players of Final Fantasy XIV, this study considers the role of fantasy and masculinities as players of online video games create and control avatars to interact with one another. As has been demonstrated by others (Taylor 2012), gaming spaces contain contradictory expressions of masculinities: male-only “safe spaces” full of homophobia and misogyny on one hand, and welcoming of queerness and playful gender re-appropriations on the other. I argue that similar contradictions exist in Japan as well, yet their exact expressions are negotiated by Japanese patterns of masculinities that find their way into the fantasy world. Although the rich testimonies of players do show that these fantasy spaces hold the potential to imagine ourselves and a constrained gender order otherwise (Connell 1995, Butler 2004), they are also intimately connected to corporate structures and associated masculinities that are restrictive, normative, and exploitative. Therefore, I resist the temptation to posit Japanese gaming masculinities as solely expressing “otaku” geek masculinity nor as predominantly “freeters” who reject long work hours to pursue their own interests, and instead argue how corporate “salaryman” masculinity remains relevant to inhabitants of the fantasy realm. As such, I show how this tension and overlapping of various masculinities within the same virtual space may cause friction, although this variation and unpredictability are ultimately also part of the fantasy world’s appeal.