Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression

A review

algorithms of oppression

In Vincent Mosco’s The Digital Sublime, the author describes the cult of technology as “cyperbole,” a kind of social fervor toward new methods of communication. Electricity, telegram, television, the computer and, now, the internet all had phases in their development that emphasized the utopian potential of a new and popular technology. But, according to Mosco, the real social influence of technology isn’t apparent until it becomes banal, after the utopian promises are unfulfilled and new technology has been integrated into existing power structures. A consequence of globalized industrial capitalism is that technology becomes the locus of progress that paradoxically weaves so neatly into daily life that it becomes unnoticeable. Continue Reading

Book Review: The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games

Why Gaming Culture is the Worst

Paul Cover

Reviewing The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games presented a bit of a meta problem for me. Once I finished the introduction, a thought popped into my head and refused to leave. I had been asked to evaluate on its merits, including the skill of the author, a book that is about the toxicity of games that “valorize skill and technique” (back cover copy). One of the major points of the book is that meritocracy is a flawed concept. Identifying meritocracy as a system in which skill is measured and outcomes tracked, with a mixture of talent and hard work rewarded, the author states that “meritocracy isolates, individualizes, and strips out context” (13). Continue Reading

Review: Boluk and LeMieux’s Metagaming:

Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames

metagaming img

As a topic, ‘Metagaming’ is heating up. Generally used as a catchall term used to describe all the ways in which games interface with the contexts in which they are played (Garfield 2000), discussions of metagaming have seeped into a broad range of competitive play communities (Abbott 2016; Masisak 2011). Academics also are learning to pay heed to the role of metagames in shaping communities of play and informing game design practice (Kow, Young, and Tekinbas 2014; Carter and Gibbs 2013; Carter, Gibbs, and Harrop 2012; Donaldson 2016). Nevertheless, discussion on the topic has been, for the most part, scattered, sparse, and balkanized. Continue Reading

Re-Imagining The Borderlands

A Review of Queer Game Studies

Deshane Queer Game Studies review

There’s a scene that Bonnie Ruberg describes in the final chapter of Queer Game Studies (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), which still resonates long after I finished the work. It’s a scene of the inevitable social banter after a panel discussion at an academic conference where, as Ruberg states, she feels “pressured to either tone down my queerness […] or to perform it” (271). For Ruberg, her queerness is not evident in people’s assumptions of her while also simultaneously too evident in her research in queer gaming. She reminds herself to not mention her ex-girlfriend and to silence her kinkiness; she dresses the professional part to blend in and answers questions about her research with a smile on her face—and yet, she still deals with feelings of being “the weird grad student” and with people’s seemingly never-ending questions of “Queerness? And games?” with a twinge of disgust (272). Continue Reading

A Call to Arms

A Review of Playing War by Matthew Thomas Payne

Playing War

Despite its growing cultural legitimation, for some, gaming still begins and ends with a man-child screaming into a headset while he fires round after virtual round into digital insurgents in vaguely Middle-Eastern locales. The spectacular and seemingly escapist nature of many military themed first-person shooters make them less tempting for critique, especially in a field full of unexamined experiments in critical and self-reflexive play. Perhaps this is why scholarship on the subject has been somewhat lacking, finding niches in game studies anthologies or as minor parts of larger projects on Empire despite the genre’s extreme popularity and gaming’s already troubling connection to contemporary technologies of war. Luckily, Matthew Thomas Payne’s Playing War: Military Video Games after 9/11 provides an excellently researched (and long overdue) book-length examination of the military video game and its relationship to cultural mythologies surrounding the ongoing War on Terror. Perhaps more importantly, Payne’s accessible methodology and emphasis on the political stakes of gaming make his project one worth emulating. Continue Reading

Joysticks & Killing Joy

A Game Scholar’s Take on Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life

living a feminist life

Content Notification: gendered violence, sexism, racism

I imagine an academy filled with feminist killjoys, showing off our scars and canes and mohawks and afros and ponytails, wearing dresses and t-shirts and crop tops and bowties and hijabs. We may or may not have vaginas— that doesn’t matter— and we identify as queer, bi, lesbian, straight, two-spirited, genderqueer, butch, femme, non-binary. We have depression, anxiety, PTSD, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), and chronic pain. We play Candy Crush, Resident Evil, Mario Kart, Settlers of Catan, solitaire, and LARP. We keep talking and playing and writing and we can’t be shut up or shut out. We are here. Continue Reading

East of the Key Sword (and West of the Triforce)

Rethinking Cultural Influence in Mia Consalvo’s Atari to Zelda: Japanese Videogames in Global Contexts

atari to zelda

It seems impossible to discuss the history of videogames without considering Japan. Specific events, like Namco’s development of Pac-Man — the most successful arcade game of all time — or Nintendo’s revival of the North American game console business with the release of its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the mid-1980s, have become celebrated milestones in the story of Japan’s role in videogames. Continue Reading