Play in between: Women player identifies and the practice of skin making

Hanna Wirman

Hanna Wirman, PhD Student, University of the West of England

My Thoughts

My last notes done on my laptop, and in this case had a lot of investigation into the skinners of The Sims, and what they thought of themselves and what they did. Interesting stuff.


Skin used meaning player-made costume, not just the actual player skin. Women can change what has been created by the masculine game industry community. The Sims is popular with women, has and vivid images. Therefore The Sims is a perfect example.

Player “Identity” is a key point in the work, the definition varies – eg; Butler (1990): gender identities via. “otherness”, or Hall (using Derrida) 2007: identify is “constructed in or through difference and is constantly destabilised by what it leaves out”. Interview materials take this into account.

The natural state is studied first, normally the male dominated status-quo in a game and is taken as the proposed “natural” state of things. This is the hegemony, so the investigation needs to look outside the “hegemony of play”.

The Sims came across as different, affording multiple player groups (even hetrosexual men!) and the gameplay is not usual game play – it seems they think they are not gamers but The Sims players, and the game is not the same as other games which is why it was studied.
The second area is Beyond the assumed player: Women players. Women are left to the margins, certainly in media, and some women players even think they are not a typical women player, who “don’t pluck their eyebrows and use ugly clothes”.

Finally is Between industry and fandom: Co-productive players. Players who construct extra things for the games and who don’t consider themselves normal players. Additionally to this, they justify the time spent doing this because they are learning something (tools, methods to do the skinning).

Bringing the seriousness into a fun game (as a contrast to the morning session on bringing the fun into serious games).

Some Nintendo games on the DS work towards the tasks that might be done in everyday things for women, such as knitting/handicrafts/etc. etc. – it’s a productivity and benefit selling point, and one to be aware of in academia.

These skinners were not fans either – didn’t get the expansion packs, or would be fine without it for a long time. This definition of fan needs to have a standard though, else everyone can say “I am not a fan, a fan would also do…”.

The skinners also don’t think (or don’t want to say in an interview) they are hackers, since they do not add objects or change the functionality’s of the game – it’s complicated. They do recognise the skills they have gained skinning however, possibly even in the games industry.

Skinning is pretty much therefore inseparable from the actual Sims gameplay. This goes beyond the borders of playing the game in the traditional sense however. All of the 3 groups are important for defining the identities of women in The Sims.

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