Cards Against Humanity Is _________

Playing With & Playing Up Difference in Games

Special Feature - Cards Against Humanity Is

I want to frame this essay with the current furor going on in video game cultures and video game communities, particularly the backlash against women gamers, feminist critiques of games, and any charges of racism, homophobia, ableism, and such in games and gaming communities. Think Anita Sarkeesian, Briana Wu, #GamerGate, Nintendo’s Tomodachi Life scandal, and the recent Pew report that reveals that women are largely unwelcome in gaming. In essence, it is really important to understand that among certain segments of gamers what fuels the backlash is the defense that, “a game is just a game.” Because it is play and not “real,” games are thereby immune to analysis or critique, and players themselves are somehow released from responsibility as well. Continue Reading

On Beauty

Gamers, Gender, & Turing

Special Feature - On Beauty

Games are beautiful, because in the case of games, someone or something gave rise to the creation, and someone or something must play. If it appears I am inadequately utilizing the language typically reserved for passion, desire, love, and flowers, it may be because gaming–it’s interaction and play–is being underestimated. For those working in the field of new media studies and art, most of us do this work because we believe that technology can provide radical possibilities of community and creativity. I believe digital games can provide these radical possibilities. I believe this about gaming, even though I am not a gamer. Continue Reading

Designing for the Other

Serious Games, Its Challenges, & Mindful Play

Special Feature - Designing for the Other

It has been foretold that Games will define the nature of media in the 21st century[1]. As with any expanding media form, games have splintered into smaller and smaller sub-genres. Serious Games is one of these sub-genres, and my field of practice at my studio Antidote Games. The use of games to resolve topics with real world consequences is commonly referred to as Serious Games. Usually, the conversation around games splits into the familiar AAA vs Indie divide, and there is a similar divide between games for pleasure or games for social justice. The separation into games for “fun” and games for “change” has given new life to the exploration of serious “real-world” topics in game making. While a lot of this conversation circles around unfamiliar narrative paths being explored in autobiographical games and games that contextualize unfamiliar topics for players in the west, my interest is in opening up a part of Serious Games that rarely get discussed, much less critiqued: games made for people in non-western countries as part of aid or educational programs. Continue Reading

All Balled Up Inside

Consent, Pinball, & the End of ‘Sex as Conquest'

Rae - Pinball

What does pinball have to offer in the context of consent and queerness? The short answer is about 2,000 words of a “social justice warrior” yelling at you about gaming. The longer answer is about 1,975 words of a “social justice warrior” yelling at you about resisting compulsory sexual standards and the end of sex as conquest.

What is “sex as conquest”? To answer that, first we need to discuss what consent means. Consent is not merely a thing that is given or traded between two people. It is a communal, philosophical, and political ethos that attempts to be aware of class, gender, power structures, and power differentials. When we talk about consent, we’re not just talking about you agreeing to something. We’re talking about the framework within which you can agree to something and the tools you have access to in order to agree— whether it’s to agree to have sex or to exchange power. Continue Reading

Building Queer Community

Report on the Queerness & Games Design Workshop

Special Feature - Building Queer Community

Despite its relative novelty, it is easier to explain the Queerness and Games Design Workshop than, for example, to tell family back home what film studies is and why being a film studies major doesn’t necessarily mean learning to make movies. Perhaps explaining the Queerness and Games Design Workshop (QGDW) is easier because family in the Midwest aren’t the ones asking about it—they don’t mention the Queerness and Games Conference (QGCon) when I post about it on Facebook either. Those who do ask are already prepared, in a way, for the answer. It is oftentimes difficult to explain anything at all to family back home. But then this has always been part of the reason why we need queer communities in the first place. A recent UC Berkeley Campus Climate Survey found that more than 1 in 4 students at UC Berkeley felt uncomfortable with the campus climate. Those who identify as LGBTQ experienced exclusionary conduct at a much higher rate, even in the classroom. Outside of widespread infrastructural transformations (which we should never stop fighting for—gender-neutral bathrooms, better training for faculty about micro-aggressions), the workshop was conceived of as a small way to help combat these experiences of exclusionary conduct. Continue Reading

Videogames, Queerness, & Beyond

Dispatches from the 2014 Queerness & Games Conference

Special Issue - QGCon

Why talk about queerness when we talk about videogames? Queerness is a form of sexuality, but it is also a mode of thinking, of living, of feeling: differently. When we talk about queerness in videogames, we are talking about fair and equal representation of LGBTQ characters, but we are also talking about queer theory, about queer design, and about queer play. We need to talk about queerness in videogames because we need games and the way to approach them to reflect the full richness of the many ways we each live, love, and desire. Continue Reading

Queering Human-Game Relations

Exploring Queer Mechanics & Play

Special Issue - QGCon - Clark and Kopas

In this talk, Merritt and I will be using the word “queer” in a very particular way. It might be easiest to think of that usage as the “verb” use of queer, and think about what it means to “queer” something. We want to give you some thoughts on the nature of the relationship between human beings and games, in the past and present, in the stories we tell about games and the way they shape us, what assumptions we make about human-game relations and how we might be able to queer them. Queer is a word in a constant process of mutation, inherently unfixed. As a young queer in the process of figuring myself out, I sought a word that described me—that somehow encompassed the different-than-expected tangle of my gender, my sexuality, the ways I use and make my body. “Queer,” as I understood it, dealt with these dilemmas by being a relentlessly unfixed signifier—not just available for reinterpretation and redeployment, but by insisting on standing for what’s outside, still unintelligible, not part of an orderly system. Continue Reading