Cognitive Dissonance

A Scholarly Roundtable on GamerGate - Part II

Special - Roundtable on GamerGate

What approaches need to be taken to assess the scope, actions, and meaning of GamerGate? A number of questions arise when considering GamerGate in light of its persistence and complexity. Is GamerGate, as Ryan Broderick argues, the last gasp of the “manosphere” and its “angry nerds using mobs of sockpuppets to help them fight their anonymous culture wars,” even as he asserts the worst is yet to come? Or is GamerGate better understood, and analysed, as a recruiting ground for a sophisticated, technologically proficient, and reactionary right-wing movement that has in its sights the hard-fought gains of feminism and civil rights? Or is GamerGate, as more moderate proponents argue, nothing but a “consumer revolt” against “mainstream gaming magazines” that have “established themselves as a clerisy,” and thus a rejection of being “automatically maligned by self-appointed consensus makers,” forced into a “a false binary of gamers + and drooling troglodytes,” as Hezekiah Salmon observed in the comments to the first part of this roundtable?

Undoubtedly any comprehensive analysis of GamerGate will have to acknowledge that all of these approaches touch upon what is at stake; that the combination of divergent and contradictory positions reveals a multiplicity of interests and forces at work in which any critical viewpoint is necessarily one of parallax. Of course, GamerGate has its own messaging; but this public communication must be critically evaluated against the telling evidence of its internal discourse and the actions and campaigns carried out under its banner.

It is worth recalling that GamerGate’s stated mission concerns “ethics in games journalism” — in particular, its adherents proclaim that they wish to unmask undisclosed, if not “conspiratorial” connections between games reviewers, journalists, and the games industry that undermine the “objectivity” of games reviewing. Yet, this peculiarly moral mission—peculiar because entertainment criticism is the providence of inherently subjective opinion, and not the critical assessment of fact-seeking in current events reportage—was invented well after the fact of GamerGate’s actual beginnings. GamerGate began, and continues, as a backlash against a variety of subject-positions, critiques, and insights that have been traditionally underrepresented in the homogeneous sphere of masculinist gamer culture.

What would happen if GamerGate took upon itself to actually address its stated concerns? GamerGate appears to have arisen from the ashes of 4chan’s trickster culture — its merry band of trolls and misfits out for lulz. Lulz can more or less be defined as laughter at someone else’s expense, but also as a worldview that takes nothing as sacred, in what its own practitioners describe as “a state of voluntary, gleeful sociopathy over the world’s current apocalyptic state [that is] superior to being emo” (the Encylopedia Dramatica, in Coleman 2014: 30). Like many lulz campaigns, GamerGate wages “so-called ‘ruin life’ campaigns” that, as Gabrielle Coleman writes, “spread humiliating stories (regardless of truthfulness) about a chosen target, and leak vital information like addresses and Social Security numbers [doxing]” (21). “The effect” of this trolling, writes Coleman, “is akin to being cursed, branded, and stigmatized all at once. The psychological effects can be terrifyingly long lasting” (21). If GamerGate’s mission is to address unethical industry behaviour, then it begs the question why it would do so using not only unethical but criminal tactics.

As Katherine Cross notes in the roundtable below, GamerGate appears to have broken some sort of cardinal sin of lulz culture: it takes itself seriously. GamerGate really does believe, at some level — and that may just be the level of those not in on the lulz — that it is unmasking a vast conspiracy of “Social Justice Warriors” that manipulate mainstream and gamer media, the games industry, and academic organisations such as DiGRA for their own self-interest. GamerGate doesn’t disclaim itself as but “for the lulz”: its adherents parrot that they act in the name of “ethics in games journalism.” Yet if this is the case, then GamerGate’s definition of “ethics” appears to be strangely at odds, if not politically antithetical, to the well-known movement of “ethical” and “political” action that has emerged from the lulz of trickster-trolls: Anonymous. Other than trolling tactics, GamerGate appears to have little in common with anti-establishment projects such as Project Chanology — the 2008 Anonymous attack on the Church of Scientology — just as it seems entirely at odds with Anonymous’ threats to reveal the identities of male rapists or its mapping of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across North America.

At the very least, GamerGate reveals the contradictions of lulz and gamer culture; at the most it suggests a schism between the goals of Anonymous and those of GamerGate. As Jennifer Allaway suggests, further sociological research on GamerGate participants might provide insight into how participants construe their beliefs as well as possible overlaps between various constituencies, though as Michael Lutz, Jenni Goodchild, and Katherine Cross point out, the mechanisms of desire, illusion, contradiction, and ideology at work in GamerGate call for a critical, if not psychoanalytic approach to the construction of GamerGate’s beliefs.

Dissecting GamerGate’s Cognitive Dissonance

It is the task of analyzing GamerGate’s cognitive dissonance that propels the roundtable below. Our analysis is entirely cognisant of the internet context in which GamerGate deploys cognitive dissonance as a strategy. In discussing GamerGate, the conversants remain aware that, though driven by necessity to generalize, GamerGate remains a diverse set of opinions, participants, and views—many of whom might not even be aware of the way that various “operations” are being organised to say one thing, do another. To get a handle on “GamerGate” as an operation that utilises militarised language and disinformation tactics, it is worthwhile considering the #Gamergate [Central Operations Archive] document. GamerGate’s “campaigns” are produced through online strategies that are similar to hacktivism, and its culture of enjoyment produces a reward system for active participation that is not unlike gaming itself except that its targets are very real people, suffering from very real forms of harassment and violence. Like the question of ethical distanciation in drone warfare, or of military discipline in general that intentionally erases empathy for the other and systematically destroys the will to question, installing in its place an uncritical obedience to orders and authoritative power, one is led to ask whether its participants are fully cognisant of the effects of their actions.

GamerGate remains an assemblage of ambivalent participants that, although organised into campaigns, has no clear leader. Yet as Allaway points out, no leader is necessary for the designation of GamerGate as a “hate group.” This designation also serves to distinguish GamerGate from two other vectors of leaderless and online (dis)organised activism: #Occupy and hacktivism. Their differences are significant.

Occupy, though organising and communicating using various digital means, encamped itself in public spaces, forming contact relationships between diverse peoples in the flesh, and though without a single agenda, collaborated around issues of anti-poverty, anti-austerity, and anti-inequality that arose in response to the ongoing crisis of capitalism (and more broadly, climate change as driving economic collapse) (see, for example, Brown and Susen 2014; Kilibarda 2012). Various forms of hacktivism, dating back to the hacker ethos of the 1970s that championed open software and systems, have released mission statements that champion clear political causes, such as the hacktivist campaigns of The Yes Men, RTMark, and Electronic Disturbance Theater (the latter who first publicly deployed the Zapatista Tactical Floodnet as a means of “Electronic Civil Disobedience”). Hacktivists generally seek to publicize and undermine various corporate agendas and governments that have sought to suppress or control peoples online and off. And though they may use trickster means to achieve awareness (such as with many Yes Men campaigns where its members pretend to be members of the World Trade Organisation, for example), their political intent is always publicized.

In contrast to these campaigns, GamerGate’s stated mission cannot be said to reside in the same realm of political transparency. It would be a mistake to conclude that, in the final analysis, GamerGate is but a consumer revolt masquerading as a culture war; rather, as a rallying point for antifeminism and antisemitism, misogyny and transphobia, right-wing rage and white supremacy, a more troubling thesis must be posed: that GamerGate organises itself as a culture war while depicting, and disguising, itself as a consumer revolt.

Roundtable  – Part II

Participants: tobias c. van Veen, Jennifer Allaway, Katherine Cross, Jenni Goodchild and Michael Lutz (see below for author bios).

Jennifer Allaway (JA): Most hate groups that exist in reality — like not solely in internet space — start with a defined leader and have one mentality, and once that leader is gone, the hate fades away. Because of the leaderless movement on the internet though, we have members of the Men’s Rights Association (MRA) who are saying “these GamerGate guys are kind of cool, I’m going to bring my hate-group tactics from the MRA into GamerGate.” People who are literal neo-Nazis who are doing the same thing as the MRA. So we have this strange intersectional hate going on within GamerGate. To extrapolate from games for a moment, the idea that these people are agreeing on something, and possibly going to work together on something is terrifying on many levels. We have actual hate groups, listed with GamerGate on the Southern Poverty Law Centre website, joining with GamerGate too.

Jenni Goodchild (JG): I’ve been trying to collate stuff from various angles. There’s a number of people out there undertaking independent research on GamerGate. The way that GamerGate is co-opting World War II propaganda could be a study. There’s threads on Stormfront discussing [and approving] of GamerGate. The anti-Semitism that we’re seeing now in the hashtag has been underlying for months. People are saying it’s only now these groups are coming in [to the Twitter hashtag], but it’s been on 8Chan. It started at /pol. King of Pol has denied the Holocaust; PressFartToContinue, a primary information source for GamerGate, is a known stalker. Such tactics have been there from the start; it’s just that they’re only explicit now. For example, I’ve seen attempts by GamerGate to argue that Nazism wasn’t about anti-Semitism. So you can be a Nazi without being an anti-Semite, and that’s what being a NatSoc is.

Michael Lutz (ML): This logic is part of GamerGate: “Because Nazism was such a diverse movement, you’d be misrepresenting it to focus on the anti-Semitism!”

JG: Other members of GamerGate have argued that, under the definitions of the United Nations, feminism is attempting to commit cultural genocide, because apparently it is trying to get rid of white-male Christendom. Even if this were true, cultural genocide is what Christianity spread via. I guess GamerGate is being honest now — it’s about feminism.

Katherine Cross (KC): GamerGate has successfully radicalized a disaffected group of mostly—not exclusively, but mostly—young white men who feel put-upon by structural changes in society, but for whom videogames are one of the most important and personal manifestations of that. And so it follows a very familiar pattern that we see in reactionary movements of late capitalism where that latent sense of resentment—of birthrights not being fulfilled, privilege no longer counting for as much as it used to, at least in the eye of the privilege beholder—is being exploited now as a source of movement energy. That’s a big part of what has been happening in GamerGate from the start, and why it was so easy to get this particular group of energetic people opposed to so-called “Social Justice Warriors.” I would say there’s a very strong isomorphism between the idea of “they’re going to take our videogames away” and “they’re going to take our country away.” This rhetoric that is being deployed on the political right, especially in the UK and the US, that reactionary movements depend on this idea. Jenni wrote a great article about patriotism and this particular notion of the abstraction of home being a place that is being invaded by the outsider. And I think that plays a significant role in what has happened with GamerGate and why all of these reactionary elements have been flocking to it.

ML: I’ve been looking at GamerGate through a history of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories tend to come up along political lines, focusing on invasions of a homeland by the other, but also paranoid fantasies about mind and information control. GamerGate has all the structural elements of a conspiracy theory group, but its conspiracies, or rather its discontent, arises out of the market. It is becoming more openly politicized, but it emerged as a free-floating thing, which is one reason why you have the MRA and Stormfront rushing in—because GamerGate is up-for-grabs.

JG: As David Auerbach of Slate has written, “America is GamerGate.” Auerbach is trying to say that GamerGate is symptomatic of America, but what this says to me is that this is how GamerGate is viewing itself, as a bastion of sociocultural identity and patriotism. For example, RogueStar is a veteran. If you question RogueStar, people say “but he’s a veteran!”—which is weird for me, being in the UK.

JA: I think what is missing in the dialogue for me is ultimately how the industry created GamerGate. When you have this culture in the gaming industry centered around making games for men and promoting masculinity and virility for thirty-plus years, that is only now being challenged strongly by groups marginalized from this culture, this is what allows a radical niche to react so violently [to perceived threats]. What could be a profound area of study would be addressing how the industry could take some ownership for the “angry child” it has created and that has been causing so much pain for its employees.

KC: There’s one big area I want to move into and that’s gamification. Tobias talked about how #GamerGate is really a “game” for a lot of people and that is really true. The guiding mythology of GamerGate, for some, is this idea that, because they have been trained through videogaming to overcome obstacles, they are now the ideal revolutionary class for combating the malevolent influences of feminism. And there is this Skinnerian effect that has happened within GamerGate and its various precincts, where people are treating it like a game. When you treat social interaction in this way that exists liminally between reality and unreality, as if it’s “just a game,” people are more likely to behave aggressively or engage in harassment, because their empathy and morality are short circuited by treating the interaction as a ludic challenge to overcome. You don’t empathise with NPCs. GamerGate itself, in conjunction with this “ethic” of gameification, is part of what leads to them being “morally unmusical,” where they adhere to very simplistic, binary rules as to what they think is moral, such as: if it’s not illegal it’s acceptable; or you should only avoid doing bad things because it’s bad PR. This is not a robust, supple, agile morality. But that comes from the gameification sense of win conditions: do X to win, don’t do Y or you’ll lose. And that’s a huge part of the problem.

Finally, I wanted to say that trans people have already been enduring this. We’ve been at the heart of GamerGate’s maelstrom for some time. GG is responding to the threat posed by trans women, game developers, and writers; the whole Twine phenomenon is, after all, deeply associated with trans women’s contributions to modern game design. I think that intersectional analysis of the movement has to be front and centre; GamerGate profits mightily from imagining that all of its opponents are white, cisgender people. But I and a lot of other women of colour, and a lot of trans people, certainly have been viciously attacked by GamerGate and villianized. I think that attention to that is necessary, as is the role of this kind of identity politics in GamerGate itself, where it certainly is extant—e.g., what is drawing in a minority of women [to identify with GamerGate]?

JG: Videogames do have a black-and-white sense of morality and GamerGate is a perfect example of why: it’s obvious that [the industry] has targeted that market, and that market clearly subscribes to [such a binary] view. Gamers have been trained in various ways: that no matter how many times you die, you hit the Replay button; GamerGate is very much basing how it acts on videogame principles. It’s fascinating how GamerGate denies the influence of videogames [on their actions], yet also talks about how they’ve learnt their methods from games.

I also don’t feel like academia (or journalism) understands 4chan and 8chan. At all. With the Jennifer Lawrence leak, there was a lot of talk about “the 4chan hacker,” which is so inaccurate and nonrepresentative about what happened. If you want to have a critical analysis of GamerGate, you can’t ignore the multiple boards, and strains of thought, of 4chan and 8chan. 8chan is not a monolithic block. There’s also not enough research on how 4chan and 8chan make it so easy to recruit [members to their campaigns]. I also disagree with reports that say that GamerGate is “just teenagers.”

JA: The sociological study “Trolls Just Want to Have Fun” revealed that the average age of internet trolls was 39.

JG: And this is what bothers me: that you have these grown, often-men, styling these young adults after them. Working with teenagers in my own practice, I have had to deal with boys as young as twelve who think that 4chan’s [mysognist campaigns] are “funny.” Any analysis of GamerGate needs to look at how easy it is for young adults to “fall in” with 4chan rhetoric, because people accept you there. If you feel persecuted — even if you’re not persecuted — the feeling still exists and it can still be validated. 4chan validates these feelings because it says: you have a place here, because everybody is equal, because everybody is anonymous. It can end up feeling like a validating space for teenagers — but it’s really unsafe, and has a lot of terrible trends and ideas. Not enough has been talked about how /pol has been involved in GamerGate.

I think GamerGate has the hallmarks of a cult. I would like to see research into its methods—its recruitment method and the fact that it has a set list of talking points. In short we need multiple perspectives to understand GamerGate

KC: GamerGate has required various angles of research. It’s a testament to a particular kind of diversity in GamerGate—that they don’t like to talk about—which is that there’s a tangle of social pathologies at work there that are difficult to cram into one journal article or one op-ed and do justice to.

In this respect, I believe we also need to caution research that is a little too fond of the ideal of trolling, which minimizes the harm that the culture of these websites (e.g. 8chan) are capable of perpetrating. Some researchers really step into the shoes of the 4chan participants, who really believe that it’s all for the lulz and they idealize this, rather than also keeping enough distance to see the harm that trolls do.

ML: GamerGate has been symptomatic of the ~chan ethos, particularly this idea of “Anonymous,” which has entered into the public imagination in a certain way far more positively than it should. Anonymous really started with its protests against Scientology, and the idealization of [internet trolling] has come partly from there. The idea of Anonymous is itself very attractive, and it’s very much almost a foundational idea of the popular idea of the internet, and what the internet can be: that you can slip on this mask, and enter into discourse, and not risk the normal things you’d risk—your name, your reputation—because “we’re all anonymous.” But anonymity, here, is very deeply coded as a kind of masculine, detached, white anonymous. Having participated in 4chan, I remember an Anonymous slogan: “Anonymous—because none of us is as mean as all of us.” And that’s really what Anonymous is: a place where one can be as mean as you want, where nothing really matters, like the /b/ board. It results in shock value: trying to say the most “politically incorrect” thing you can in order to get the most lulz. It becomes difficult to tell when these opinions are being said sincerely or as [ironic] trolling. It becomes impossible to have an argument in good faith, because everything is potentially painted with irony, as we have that mask between us.

There’s a very problematic idea of “anonymous.” What does this mean for the internet, our attitudes towards it, and our interactions on it? How does the idea of Anonymous, if that’s going to persist as anonymity, going to have to change in order to not cater to a particular demographic of young, angry, white men?

JG: I’m reminded of Richard Bartle, the inventor of MUDs. Bartle has said that MUD avatars and texting would have been genderless if the English language hadn’t required it. He ideally would have had [MUD interactions] genderless because he truly wanted to shed your actual self and go into the game. What’s interesting is that Bartle is very much of the original hacker ethos, and that the MUD was an inherently political act, because he was working class in the UK, and was looked down upon in the university. So the creation of MUDs was a political act for stepping outside of this oppression, and for being free of it, in a space where he could choose to be so. It’s fascinating to me, then, that GamerGate is trying to say that games are not political, that there’s nothing political in what they’re doing, when Bartle, who basically invented MMOs, invented them as a political statement.

KC: Recently, I revisited the Encyclopedia Dramatica when the GamerGate article went up. What I found fascinating, relative to 4chan culture overall, is the fact that GamerGate seems to have committed the only sin that exists in the chaotic and evil universe of 4chan: they now take themselves dead seriously. In all the Encyclopedia Dramatica articles, as hateful as they could be, there was always this wink and a nod, this understanding that it was the primordial essence of a joke, and that even 4channers themselves, were in on the joke, and mocking themselves too. But the GamerGate article is very self-serious — this is a movement with a very important cause, marching to a very important future against a very important enemy. And it’s the antithesis of 4chan’s culture. When Anonymous was born — in the sense that we understand it today, out of Project Chanology — they were derided as “moralfags,” because they had now developed this “cause.” They had taken themselves very seriously and were fighting for justice, and that’s not what 4chan is about. The Anonymous culture fed back into 4chan, even the /b/ board, but overall there is still this schism between what 4chan has always been and what Anonymous has come to be, especially in the public eye. GamerGate is very strange, in that it grew out of 4chan culture, but then became the embodiment of its cardinal sin.

There’s one little quote here from an article analyzing GamerGate as a reactionary movement. It’s a quoted tweet, and it says, “sufficiently advanced trolling is indistinguishable from thought leadership.” I found that very intriguing, because it’s an interesting way of looking at the varying degrees of unseriousness and self-satirizing mockery of 4chan, which suggests that in a bizarre and unintentional way it can lead to actual politics happening. After a certain point, trolling simply is the thing it imitates.

JG: GamerGate is in a position where it’s being critiqued by the hacker oldguard—such as William Gibson—and they can’t believe that “all my heroes are disagreeing with me.” They have a choice at the crossroads: either I’m on the wrong path, or all my heroes are. And GamerGate is almost universally going with “my heroes have chosen the wrong path.” It’s interesting how they’re dealing with this, and they’re dealing with it by assuming that all of their heroes are “wrong,” and they they were incorrect about their heroes somehow. The same goes for Jim Sterling [who has critiqued GamerGate]. GamerGate is convinced that he’s being blackmailed by “SJWs.” He couldn’t have his opinion—there’s money involved or there’s “secrets.”  They don’t believe their heroes’ views are genuine; they believe they are saying it for publicity or for money, and not saying it because they believe it. That’s the whole “shill culture;” if you disagree with them you’re a shill.

KC: There’s a drive in GamerGate to unmask perceived hypocrisy, defined in the way that Arendt was talking about, where hypocrisy was apostasy to the “virtues” of the movement — and of the revolution. So that’s why they are so obsessed. If you look on 8chan’s /gamergate/ board, everyone is calling everyone else a shill, over the smallest perceived disagreement. There is this lust for unmasking the hypocrites—unmasking these people that they believe are somehow enthralled to what they believe is an amorphous “SJW” power structure in the world of gaming. The section subtitle [of my previous article on First Person Scholar] was “we have no use for nodding masks,” which comes from an old East German Communist song titled “Tell Me Where You Stand.” The song was basically an injunction to people in the bourgeois West to “tell me what side of the revolution you’re on.” The last stanza says “we have the right to rip off your mask and reveal your true face / nodding masks are useless to us.” This obsession with uncovering the “truth” that Arendt identified is how these radical movements tend to consume themselves. When the movement becomes obsessed with extremism of any type, it becomes self-consumptive.

ML: GamerGate thought that Stephen Colbert would also agree with them. You see a lot of disappointment—

JG: Except that they think he did agree with them. They’ve rewritten it in their minds.

ML: Wow. I see this psychoanalytically as a difference mechanism, as a fetishistic disavowal, because in my understanding, people have been acculturated to enjoy in certain ways, to enjoy certain games, and to enjoy in certain fashions. And it becomes inconceivable to them that I might like Depression Quest and enjoy that in a comparable way, and that there are other sorts of enjoyment. If you make any sort of argument, for another sort of pleasure, aesthetic or otherwise, there’s something “wrong” with you. It’s a very worried, neurotic reaction against the idea that there are other sorts of enjoyment, because to admit that, would mean to admit that their hobbyism is not the panacea they want it to be against the feelings of social ostracism—of being hurt, of being cheated. Gaming will not save them; actually it never wanted to save them, it only ever wanted their money.

JG: There’s a really weird trend towards valuing science and objectivity and rationality, without understanding any of those words. There’s a sense that a game can be “objectively” good. There’s an idea that there is a “correct” enjoyment, and if you didn’t enjoy it like that, there’s something wrong [with you]. There’s very much this idea of enjoyment being measurable, of being quantifiable. I think this is the source of the problem, of why they think other people don’t really enjoy this; because GamerGate thinks that its view is objective, so if you disagree, it’s not just that you’re different, you’re actively “incorrect.”

ML: Pace Žižek, for them they have this sublime object, “The Video Game,” and somewhere out there, there is this perfect, totally enjoyable, 10 out of 10 across the board for everyone videogame, and the review structure is somehow keeping this hidden from them. Whereas, as Žižek tells us, the sublime object is really a signifier without a signified, supple and plastic, that allows you to kind of rally psychic and affective energy.

JG: There is a sense that the “objectively good” can be empirically measured, such as in a survey or study, where if 51% of respondents say the game is good, it would be “objectively” good.

KC: There is like confusion as to how “objective” is used in the [social] sciences. In the above [fictional] empirical study, one would have to say “objectively, 51% of people in this sample with these characteristics liked these types of games.” But that is not an objective commentary on the Platonic ideal of the “good game,” which is not available for us to study.

Works Cited

Berger, Arthur Asa. 2008 [1996]. Manufacturing Desire: Media, Popular Culture, and Everyday Life. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Brown, Craig and Simon Susen. 2014. “Austerity and Its Antitheses: Practical Negations of Capitalist Legitimacy.” South Atlantic Quarterly 113(2), pp. 217–230: <http://saq.dukejournals.org/content/113/2/217.short>.

Coleman, Gabriella. 2014. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. London: Verso.

Kilibarda, Konstantin. 2012. “Lessons from #Occupy in Canada: Contesting Space, Settler Consciousness and Erasures within the 99%.” Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies 5, pp. 24–41: <http://www.criticalglobalisation.com/issue5/JCGS-ISSUE-5.pdf#page=24>.

 

Author Bios

Jennifer Allaway is an undergraduate student of Sociology at Willamette University, a game writer, and an independent social researcher whose primary body of work focuses on sexism in the game industry and its impact on game content and culture. Her groundbreaking study exploring these topics, funded by the Carson Program, has been presented at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), PAX Prime, and Indie Game Con, with articles published in Gamasutra and Jezebel. She tweets from @AllawayJ.

Katherine Cross is a Ph.D. student at the City University of New York Graduate Center and a sociologist of gender who focuses on the virtual world. Her academic writing explores roleplaying, virtual embodiment, and more recently, online harassment and its causes. Her academic work has been published in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Loading: The Journal of the Canadian Games Studies Association, and First Person Scholar. Katherine is a Presidential Magnet Fellow at the Graduate Center and a mentor in the CUNY Pipeline Program. She is also a gaming critic who is co-editor at The Border House and who has written about games for Bitch Magazine, Feministing, Polygon, and Kotaku.

Jenni Goodchild is the academic organiser at Nine Worlds, a London based convention which began in August 2013. She’s interested in the intersection between pop culture and theology, especially geek culture, as well as academic outreach to non-academic communities. Jenni has a B.A. in Philosophy and Theology from the University of Oxford, and is currently working on an M.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Bristol. Her work on geek culture and philosophy can be found at www.geekessays.wordpress.com and on Twitter @PixieJenni.

Michael Lutz is a Ph.D. student in English literature at Indiana University-Bloomington and an interactive fiction writer. His academic interests include early modern drama, philosophies of humanism, and media studies. His work on games attempts to bridge theories of dramatic performance, affect, and psychoanalysis with the phenomenology of play. His work has appeared at First Person Scholar and his interactive fiction has been featured on Kotaku, Polygon, and Wired.

tobias c. van Veen is SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Communications at the Université de Montréal. His research combines philosophy and ethnography with media theory to investigate the ways in which concepts and movements are produced at the intersection of culture and technology. Tobias is editor of the Afrofuturism special issue of Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture (2013) and co-editor with Hillegonda Rietveld of the forthcoming special issue “Echoes from the Dub Diaspora” (2015). As a media artist, turntablist, and curator, tobias has collaborated with festivals and media arts centres worldwide, working with sonicultures, hacktivism, and net-art. Tobias is the former Concept Engineer at the Society for Art and Technology (SAT) in Montréal and Founding Director of technology arts organisation UpgradeMTL.org .