Dimensions of Identity in Games

A Review of Gaming at the Edge by Adrienne Shaw

gaming at the edge

I have never identified as a ‘gamer’. I transitioned from casual to serious player in the months just prior to the drastic increase of online harassment campaigns, and the fierce attacks against diversity that characterized them. The toxic, sexist rhetoric that spread across gaming communities seems to have tainted the label of ‘gamer’ in my eyes. Of course, this movement did not go unopposed, and the calls for increased representations of diversity in video games have been numerous and vehement. An essential addition to this conversation is Adrienne Shaw’s book Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture. Gaming at the Edge offers an ethnographic study that explores the ways members of marginalized groups engage with video games, how the ability to identify with the characters represented in games shapes this engagement, and argues that ongoing conversations about diversity in games should be reframed to account for the intersectional nature of identity. Continue Reading

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

An Editorial from the Essays Editor

Editorial - One Year

I have no idea where the field is going, but I can say where I’d like it to go in general terms. I hope to see a further focus on two concepts in particular, subjectivity and complexity. Subjectivity is important for the obvious reason that videogames are played by humans. A critical methodology that ignores subjectivity is, in my view, missing an important piece of the puzzle. As Stephanie Jennings puts it, “the critic’s subjectivity, experiences of playing a game, and even personal identity are… part of the game text under analysis.” The idea that objectivity is desirable or even remotely possible in criticism is, in my view, absurd. Sure, we can discuss the formal characteristics of a thing, but the characteristics we choose to examine and how we interpret them is going to depend on the person. Luckily, I think we’re at the point where the push for objectivity is disappearing and more or less confined to the comments sections for AAA game reviews. Still, the examination of subjectivities is something I’d like to keep seeing. Continue Reading

The Tyranny of Realism

Historical Accuracy in Assassins's Creed III

Essay - Assassins Creed 3

I confess to having a love-hate relationship with Assassin’s Creed. Every game in the series is beautiful. The stunning landscapes, architectural and historical detail, acrobatic player-character and smooth (for the most part) gameplay are incredibly satisfying. Certainly there were many critiques of the repetitiveness of the first game. The modern-day component of the story and Matrix-esque Animus which acts as the deus ex machina to help explain why, as Desmond’s ancestor, the player can access databases full of historical information is arguably a bit cheesy (though no more so than most game narratives). Continue Reading