A Blackgirl Sims Autoethnography: Navigating Identity through Critical Gameplay Analysis, Personal Reflections, and Black Feminist Thought

Shepard, Olivia, Media, Culture, and Technology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Wade, Ashleigh, Department of Media Studies, University of Virginia

This thesis proposes methods in which to explore Blackgirl identity within the digital gaming sphere, particularly through The Sims 4. Positioned at the crossroads of Black Feminist Thought and digital culture studies, it documents a personal journey of navigating and negotiating racial and gender identity in a virtual setting. By critically analyzing two Sims narratives, the thesis reveals how digital spaces serve as vital sites for identity exploration and expression. Employing a combination of Blackgirl autoethnography and the innovative mixtape-as-method approach, the study engages with diverse media artifacts, including game screenshots, personal narratives, and curated digital collections. Analyzed through a framework informed by scholars known as "Thee Black Fem Baddies," this research offers a nuanced view of Black female identity dynamics within digital and gaming cultures. Central themes include identity construction through gameplay, the role of digital games in critical reflection, and the impact of gaming on personal identity development. The Sims 4 is presented as a crucial platform for creatively expressing the self in transformative ways that challenge traditional narratives and forge new paths for personal and collective identity formation. This work enriches the discourse on race, gender, and digital media by highlighting how virtual platforms can shape and support the continuous negotiation of identity, especially for marginalized groups. By extending the boundaries of Black Feminist Thought into the digital realm, it provides insights into how digital games like The Sims serve as powerful tools for identity exploration and expression for Black girls and women.

MA (Master of Arts)
Digital Gaming, Blackgirl Identity, The Sims 4, The Sims, Black Feminist Thought, Identity Exploration, Megan Thee Stallion, Real Hot Girl Shit, Mods, Custom Content, Black Games Studies, Autoethnography, Critical Reflection, Thee Black Fem Baddies, Identity, Games, Feminist Game Studies, Black Feminist Game Studies, Black Women, Black Feminism
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