About the researcher

Carina is a PhD student and Research Student Teaching Associate at Falmouth University, Games Academy (Doctoral Studentship recipient). Her research focuses on gender diversity practices in esports communities across the UK and in Portugal, with the aim to uncover how cultural differences impact these spaces and the goal to develop best practices for grassroots esports communities. 

She's studied Psychology and Games Design at Glasgow Caledonian University (First Class, and winner of Best Performing Student Award); she’s also completed a Masters by Research in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Edinburgh (Distinction, and recipient of the Highly Skilled Workforce Scholarship). 

She's taught Games User Research and User Psychology at GCU; presented her work at multiple conferences, given guest talks at Stirling and Falmouth Universities. She's published in peer-reviewed journals and is frequently asked to review papers in games studies journals. 

Carina Assuncao headshot
Carina Assuncao headshot

PhD abstract

Thesis title

How is gender diversity experienced in esports communities in Portugal and the UK? 


Since the COVID-19 pandemic, competitive video games have attracted more players and spectators. Professional videogame playing – esports – has adopted the language, aesthetics, and structures from traditional sports to become a legitimate ‘sport for all’ inclusive of everyone irrespective of physical ability or gender. Unlike most other traditional sports where males have physical advantages such as muscle mass and upper body strength, in esports there is no biological justification for gender segregation, yet most professional players identify as male. 

This project will explore how esports communities in Portugal and the UK embrace or resist alterity, with the goal to develop evidence-based gender diversity recommendations for grassroots communities and events, thus highlighting pathways that normalise expanded participation in esports. 

While initiatives focussed on gender diversity such as women-only tournaments are often proposed, the impact of such initiatives is not yet fully understood, nor are the conditions under which the potential benefits can be fully realised. Such initiatives are under-studied, especially in the European context where esports sectors are in development, and especially after the pandemic caused a surge in esports’ popularity. Mixed-methods organised into two work packages will be employed. 

Work Package 1 focuses on uncovering internal/external factors shaping the experiences of people of different genders participating in esports in both countries. A questionnaire will be shared among the esports communities, and observations will be gathered from online and in-person tournaments/gaming events. Interviews will be conducted both online and at in-person tournaments/events, with various individuals engaging in esports. 

Work Package 2 focuses on understanding the individuals and forces shaping current and future gender diversity policies and practices in esports in both countries. This will involve content analysis of such documentation, e.g., codes of conduct, promotional material; and thematic analysis of how these are received by the esports communities. 

Researcher bio



Year Qualification Awarding body
2017 MSc by Research in Science and Technology Studies (Distinction)  University of Edinburgh
2016 BSc(Hons) Psychology with Interactive Entertainment (First Class) Glasgow Caledonian University
2008 BA Translation (2:1) Universidade Catolica Portuguesa

Grants & Awards

Year Description Awarding body
2021 Falmouth Doctoral Studentship Falmouth University
2016 Highly Skilled Workforce Scholarship University of Edinburgh

Honours & Awards

Best Performing Student - Psychology (GCU), 2016

Professional Engagements

Research Student Teaching Associate – Falmouth University. From September 2022 – present. 


Assuncao, C., Scott, M., Summerley, R., 2023, Towards a Framework for Assessing the Mechanisms that Contribute to Prosocial and Antisocial Behaviour in Esports, FDG’23, April 11–14,2023, Lisbon, Portugal. 

Assuncao, Carina. “Is Pokémon GO Feminist? An Actor-Network Theory Analysis.” Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association, vol. 3, no. 3, June 2018, doi:https://doi.org/10.26503/todigra.v3i3.78. 

Assunção, Carina, et al. “Pokémon Is Evolving! An Investigation into the Development of the Pokémon Community and Expectations for the Future of the Franchise.” Press Start, vol. 4, no. 1, June 2017, pp. 17–35, press-start.gla.ac.uk/index.php/press-start/article/view/64. 

Assunção, Carina. “‘No Girls on the Internet’: The Experience of Female Gamers in the Masculine Space of Violent Gaming.” Press Start, vol. 3, no. 1, July 2016, pp. 46–65, press-start.gla.ac.uk/index.php/press-start/article/view/46. 

Research interests

  • Esports
  • Streaming
  • Gender diversity
  • Toxic behaviour in games
  • Representation in games
  • Game User Research 
  • User psychology
  • Game studies theory
  • Motivations to play
  • Sportification
  • Gamification
  • Games for health
  • Game Design principles
  • Serious games