Sound, music and gender in mobile games


  • David Machin Örebro University
  • Theo van Leeuwen University of Southern Denmark and University of New South Wales



gender, apps, computer games, sound, music, multimodality


In everyday life it is now common to find our actions linked to sound, especially using technology, such as when we use mobile devices, or operate more recently manufactured cars, technology in the workplace or simply in an elevator. While we may attend little to these noises, like any semiotic resource, they can communicate very specific meanings and carry ideologies. In this paper, using multimodal critical discourse analysis, we analyse the sounds and music in two proto-games that are played on mobile devices: Genie Palace Divine and Dragon Island Race. While visually the two games are highly gendered, we show that an investigation of the sounds players can make during gameplay reveals very specific insights into the ways that sound positions players in the world. In each game we ask: what is foregrounded and what backgrounded as regards sound? Sound can be used to signal the personal and impersonal and specific kinds of social relations which, we show, is highly gendered. It can also signal priorities, ideas and values, which in both cases, we show, relate to a world where there is simply no time to stop and think.

Author Biographies

  • David Machin, Örebro University

    David Machin is professor of media and communication, at Örebro University, Sweden. His publications include Analysing Popular Music (2010), The Language of Monuments (2013) and Visual Journalism (2015). He coedits the journals Journal of Language and Politics and Social Semiotics.

  • Theo van Leeuwen, University of Southern Denmark and University of New South Wales

    Theo van Leeuwen is professor at both the University of Southern Denmark and University of New South Wales. His publications include Speech, Music, Sound (1999); Introducing Social Semiotics (2005) and The Language of Colour (2011). He is co editor of the journal Visual Communication.


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How to Cite

Machin, D., & van Leeuwen, T. (2016). Sound, music and gender in mobile games. Gender and Language, 10(3), 412-432.