Stephanie Orme's research has been published in peer-reviewed publications, including the #1 journal in communication, New Media and Society, and has written many chapters for edited volumes, including Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Justice and The Cambridge History of the Graphic Novel.
Her current research projects include studying moral decision-making in video games, parasocial relationships in live-streaming culture, and player experiences with play and spectating gameplay.
A. Nyström*, B.McCauley, J. Macey, T. Scholz, N. Besombes, J. Cestino, J. Hiltscher, S. Orme, R. Rumble, & Maria Törhönen. (2002). Current issues of sustainability in esports. International Journal of Esports. Accessible at https://www.ijesports.org/article/94/html.
S. L. Anderson, & Orme, S. (2022). Mental health, illness, crunch, and burnout: Discourses in video game culture. Proceedings from the 55th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. January 4-7, 2022. Computer Society Press, 2022.
Orme, S. (2021). “Just Watching:” A qualitative analysis of non-players’ motivations for video game spectatorship. New Media & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444821989350
Orme, S. (2020). Playing to win: The global esports industry and key issues. In R. Kowert & T. Quandt (Eds.), The Video Game Debate 2 (pp. 66-80). New York: Routledge.
Orme, S. (2020). Sexism in geek culture. In A. M. Bean, E. S. Daniel, & S. Dactyl (Eds.), Integrating geek culture into therapeutic practice: A clinician’s guide to geek therapy (pp. 245-258). Fort Worth, TX: Leyline.
Orme, S. (2018). “Everyone Can Make Games” and the Post-Feminist Myth of Gender Equality in Gaming Culture. In A. Brock, K. L. Gray, D. J. Leonard (Eds.), Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Social Injustice. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.
McAllister, M. P., & Orme, S. (2018). Cinema’s discovery of the graphic novel: Mainstream and independent adaptation. In J. Baetens, H. Frey, & S. Tabachnick (Eds.), The Cambridge History of the Graphic Novel. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Ferchaud, A., Grzeslo, J., Orme, S., & LaGroue, J. (2018). Parasocial attributes and YouTube personalities: Exploring content trends across the most subscribed YouTube channels. Computers in Human Behavior. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2017.10.041
McAllister, M. P., & Orme, S. (2017). The impact of digital media on advertising: Five cultural dilemmas. In P. Messaris & L. Humphreys (Eds.), Digital media: Transformations in human communication (2nd ed.) (pp. 71-78). New York: Peter Lang.
Orme, S. (2016). Femininity and fandom: The dual-stigmatization of female comic book fans. The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 7(4), 403-416. doi: 10.1080/21504857.2016.1219958
I strongly identify as a feminist, a gamer, and – specifically – a feminist gamer. In an era that is no stranger to toxicity and violence in digital spaces – particularly against critics arguing for more diversity and inclusion in media spaces – this label can be a daunting one to take on. For me, this makes my feminist gamer identity all the more crucial. The day I realized that I could fuse these two passions of mine with an academic career was nothing short of a total awakening. I felt like I found my purpose: to advance knowledge of the power inequities that persist in media systems and to attempt to dismantle the ideologies that keep those systems intact so that we can engender more equitable distributions of power.
My primary research area is the digital games industry, colloquially known as the video game industry. I approach industry concerns such as the labor practices, interactions with fan and consumer bases, and general socio-cultural impact of gaming technologies and industry practices as they relate to feminist concerns such as gender identity, racial/ethnic identity, (dis)ability, classism, and sexuality. From events such as #Gamergate, a harassment campaign targeting women and critics of gaming culture’s lack of diversity and toxic attitudes toward inclusivity, to the now infamous anti-diversity Google memo that circulated online last year, there is no question – if there ever was one – that tech-based industries are plagued by misogyny, racism, homophobia, and other discriminatory attitudes that translate into practice. My work aims to understand the ideologies that support these types of attitudes so that we can adequately confront and eradicate them.
In addition to gaming, I am also interested in investigating feminist concerns within “geek culture:” the comic book industry, sci-fi communities, and tech industry culture more broadly. I have published on gender and comic book fandom as well as the history of film adaptions of comic books and graphic novels. Many of the concerns that plague gaming culture – a specific breed of toxic “geek” masculinity – similarly affect related industries like comics, television, and film. As superhero film franchise have become a Hollywood staple and sitcoms such as “The Big Bang Theory” have become mainstream entertainment, geek culture has been folded into mainstream popular culture in a way that demands our attention more than ever.
I am first and foremost a qualitative researcher, although I have also collaborated on and conducted my own quantitative or mixed-methods studies. I believe in choosing whichever method(s) will best allow me to answer the questions I want to ask. I am also highly invested in cross-disciplinary work, having incorporated approaches from gender studies, leisure studies, economics, and other disciplines into my work. My dissertation, for example, combined a large-scale quantitative survey of over 3,000 participants with in-depth qualitative interviews to produce a more comprehensive landscape of female players’ experiences with digital games and leisure, bringing in theories from communication, gender studies, and leisure studies. In another vein of work, I have applied rhetorical analysis techniques to analyze specific games textually, such as in the case of the game Papers, Please, an exploration of immigration politics and racism. In yet another trajectory, I have collaborated on projects where we used economic modeling to assess how streaming platforms like Twitch impact sales of video games. Over the years, I have become increasingly comfortable with steeping outside of my methodological comfort zone, and I contend that my research is all the stronger because of it.
Currently, I am working on several projects that tie into the larger theme of “gaming capital.” First posited by games scholar Mia Consalvo in 2007, gaming capital borrows from Pierre’s Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital, which expresses how the culmination of various resources affords individuals with more social gravitas. With regards to gaming, then, gaming capital describes how certain members of the gaming community accrue resources that provide them with more authority within gaming spaces. Very few scholarly efforts have been made to expand on Consalvo’s concept; however, I am deeply interested in further developing the concept and applying it to the contested terrain of gaming culture – namely, exploring the techniques by which individuals create gaming capital and how they use their influence to dictate the norms of gaming culture, and what effect that has on those without such capital. Gaming capital has particular implications for marginalized players such as women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and (dis)abled individuals. For example, one of my current projects is an examination of the recent #FineWomenThatGame hashtag on Twitter, which sought to give visibility to women who play video games, a marginalized group within gaming culture. The hashtag was predicated on the sharing of selfies. I conducted a textual analysis of the images and text comprising the tweets to assess what techniques participants used to signify their affiliation with the gaming community (as well as a “fine” woman), both of which afford participants a certain degree of capital in this discursive space.
Moving forward, I am looking to study the ways in which technological affordances in gaming culture impact players with varying degrees of (dis)abilities. My dissertation exposed to many of the challenges – as well as the benefits – of gaming for populations with physical and mental disabilities. I am invested in the ways in which gaming and other media is structured on the premise on the able-bodied, able-minded individual and how that can lead to exclusionary communities. I have long been a champion of advocacy groups such as the Able Gamers Charity and similar organizations that work to make gaming technology more accessible by promoting inclusive game design features such as adjustable motor controls, rearrangeable user interfaces, and customizable difficulty settings for aspects such as accuracy, aim, and player movement. I am looking to partner with established organizations that have the infrastructure in place to design more accommodating technologies, while also participating in public forums and conventions with game developers to promote inclusive design practices.
In general, I see myself as someone engaged in public scholarship. That is, in addition to publishing in scholarly journals and presenting my work at academic conferences, I feel a moral obligation – and genuine desire – to maintain a visible presence outside of academia as well. I have an active member of Boston’s Women in Games Chapter, which consists of professional game developers in the area. As the token games researcher in the group, I bring academic insights to the group, while absorbing knowledge about their practical experiences as members of the industry, creating an exciting and much-needed exchange of ideas. In the spring, I facilitated an evening of discussion with the theme of bridging academia and the game design industry, which was well-received by attendees. I regularly attend conferences geared towards developers, who have been extremely welcoming of my perspectives, and vice versa.
In the past, I have been featured in college newspaper interviews as a media and culture expert, invited to give talks on media and culture – including a talk at Johns Hopkins University – and gave a TEDx talk at Penn State on the gaming industry and its challenges with diversity and inclusion initiatives. These opportunities have allowed me to share my expertise with a broader audience than journals, conferences, and my classrooms, and is something that I intend to continue to do. The people we tend to study, and those who often participate in our research, are sadly often unable to access our scholarship due to pay-walls or academic jargon. I want my work to be accessible – in terms of format and language – to anyone who wants to read it. To me, that is the purpose of being a scholar, and I embrace that ethic in all that I do.