Three Waves of Awkwardness: A Meta-Analysis of Sex in Game Studies

J. Tuomas Harviainen, Ashley M. L. Brown, Jaakko Suominen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


This article critically evaluates and questions the growth and maturity of game studies as a scholarly set of related approaches to the study of games, by providing an account of studies of sexuality in (mostly digital) games from 1978 to present. The main goal of this article is to highlight overarching themes and patterns in the literature, with a focus on theories and methodologies commonly used and the way game studies is still risk aware, even awkward in its discussions of sexuality. In addition to a review of 37 years of literature, the article employs a chronological and thematic metaphor analysis of past research texts to analyze whether game studies is growing up or in perpetual puberty and whether it really is exploring sexual maturity alongside the games we study. It finds that while different periods of time can be identified in research as far as approaches to sexuality in games go, game studies is still to a large extent engaged in the management of the stigma that discussing sexuality may cause. Rather than a maturation process, the waves are shown to be manifestations of different types of environmentally influenced risk awareness, consecutive risk avoidance, and a resulting awkwardness.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalGames and Culture : A Journal of Interactive Media
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 616 Other humanities
  • Game studies
  • Sexuality
  • Theory
  • Methodology
  • Critical meta-analysis


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