Player customization, competence and team discourse: exploring player identity (co)construction in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Matilda Ståhl, Fredrik Rusk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The growing esports scene brings a level of professionalism to gaming. Games that, previously, used to be a spare time activity have now become professional and educational contexts, as exemplified in this study. In these contexts, player identities in online games are actively, and contextually, (co)constructed in and through the in-game interaction with both the game itself, as well as with co-players.

In this ethno-case study (a qualitative case study informed by ethnographic methods), a player centred approach offered a participant’s perspective on local player identity (co)construction in the multiplayer first person shooter (FPS) Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (henceforth, “CS:GO”). This paper sought to answer two research questions: What tools for (co)constructing player identity in CS:GO did participants employ? and: What player identities are (co)constructed using these tools?

The data was collected in collaboration with a vocational school with an esports programme in Finland in 2017-2018. Seven students (aged 17-18, all white and identifying as male) playing CS:GO took part in the study by sharing screen recordings of their in-game matches (ten matches and almost six hours in total) and by taking part in interviews (seven in total). The participants were part of two teams and the in-game data was analyzed from two students’ perspectives, one from each team.

Based on the participants’ in-game discussions and interviews, relevant situations in relation to identity (co)construction were transcribed and analyzed inductively. The participants employed the following tools for identity (co)construction in CS:GO; choice of weapon, weapon skill, weapon customization, stats/rank and language use. These tools were employed to (co)construct identities connected to player customization, competence and team discourse. Although there are individual variances, the identities (co)constructed orient towards a perceived competent player identity shaped by technomasculine norms in online game culture, where traits that connote femininity and queerness are seen as signs of incompetence.

Keywords: Identity construction, videogames, first person shooter, ethno-case study, technomasculinity
Original languageEnglish
JournalGame Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Identity Construction
  • Videogames
  • First person shooter
  • Ethno-case study
  • Technomasculinity


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