Felicity, Framing, Feedback Loops: Historicizing Videogame Performance in Darshana Jayemanne’s Performativity in Art, Literature, and Videogames

Darshana Jayemanne’s Performativity in Art, Literature, and Videogames is an essential contribution to this ongoing animation. The book has much to give: a generative, comparative methodology; a vibrant and extensive lexicon for describing the qualities of videogames; many vivid case studies. Performance is its vital pivot point. Although the field of game studies has tended to treat performance as “either an actualization of abstract rules or a voluntarist creation of meaning by the player in each actual play decision” (p. 14), Jayemanne emphasizes that it is not so easily sequestered or reduced. Continue Reading

The Queer Games we Play

Review of Video Games Have Always Been Queer

Ruberg argues that “[q]ueerness and video games share a common ethos: the longing to imagine alternative ways of being and to make space within structures of power for resistance through play” (1). When I explained the argument to a professor, he said, “Oh, I didn’t know that could be queer.” When explained as Ruberg does, any game can be queer, and that’s exactly the point. Queerness is an embodiment of playfulness, one that allows us “to resist structures of power, or partake in alternative forms of pleasure, or inhabit embodied and affective experiences of difference” (15). But this kind of intervention and explanation is deeply needed at this point in game studies scholarship, as we can see more acceptance of queer game studies in multiple venues–the publication of this book being one of them. Continue Reading

A Multimodal Approach to Video Games and the Player

A book review

In A Multimodal Approach to Video Games and the Player Experience, Weimin Toh describes the process that led him to develop a new, exhaustive model of the relationship between storyline and gameplay in video games. He synthesizes many of the theories of narrative game studies’ through the lenses of the multimodal approach, basing them heavily on the idea of ludonarrative dissonance as introduced by Clint Hocking in 2007. Grounding his research in the previous works and acknowledging the controversies regarding the concept, Weimin Toh does not concentrate solely on ludonarrative dissonance but rather regards it as one of a few types of relationships between two game modes, next to ludonarrative resonance and ludonarrative (ir)relevance. Continue Reading

Book Review: Video Games as Culture

Considering the Role and Importance of Video Games in Contemporary Society

I want to emphasize that this is not a book in which the reader will find untouchable truths: rather, it is a tool that explains, in a very clear and understandable way, some of the debates and discussions that are still open around video games and their communities. Hence, I would not dare to say that this is going to be a definitive or complete book, but the beginning of future works and new publications that will take as their starting point some of the questions that Muriel and Crawford have synthesized and summarized so well in it. Continue Reading

“A glimpse of the possibilities”

A Review of Queerness in Play

It seems overly reductive to claim that any field is “characterized” by certain traits, but sometimes I’m tempted to resort to this tactic anyway after excellent first impressions of new work. So, by way of compromise I’ll say it this way: new scholarship in game studies is often influenced by the ways in which game studies itself is a developing and interdisciplinary field. And, in a strong recent example of this, the 2018 anthology Queerness in Play is at once a realization, a celebration, and a call for more work drawing from the intersections between queer studies and game studies. Contributors do a commendable job of keeping both the theory and the games they discuss accessible, and I imagine that this text will prove valuable to scholars and students alike. (I know I was taking notes for two of my other projects as I read!) Continue Reading

“You Ever Have That Feeling Where You’re Not Sure If You’re Awake or Still Dreaming?”

A Review of Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice

Born from the ashes of Gamergate and the 2016 US election, Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice (2018) investigates video games from the lens of social justice, discrimination, and domination. Edited by Kishonna Gray and David Leonard and published by the University of Washington Press, Woke Gaming includes the work of scholars from a wide range of disciplines—game design, sociology, and criminal justice among others. Continue Reading

“Miniaturized, A Bit Abstract, But Strangely Compelling”

A Review of Role-Playing Game Studies: A Transmedia Approach

In the introduction to Role-Playing Game Studies: A Transmedia Approach, José P. Zagal and Sebastian Deterding call games “trusty little mirrors of social life . . . miniaturized, maybe a bit abstract, but strangely compelling” (1). The latter portion of that quote serves just as well to describe their book’s relation to its topic. Noting a lack of cohesion in the study of role-playing games (RPGs), Role-Playing Game Studies strives to integrate scholarly works dispersed across a variety of disciplines and locales, and to begin the work of establishing a canon of RPG scholarship. Indeed, in a space already so nebulous and uncentered as game studies, RPGs appear mostly as curiosities – blips scattered across journals, institutions, and conferences, with little sense of who else is studying them and why. Continue Reading