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

Room to Reflect

Video Games, Meritocracy, and Toxicity

Paul Cover

Content Notification: online harassment/abuse

When I wrote my new book, The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games: Why Gaming Culture Is the Worst, I knew that I would be poking at a soft spot and would get a response. The title alone is designed to provoke and the content within it encourages readers to consider a variety of issues related to game culture, meritocracy, and structural privilege. All of these things get a reaction from people, but the primary argument I want to advance in this essay is the need for all of us to reflect on game culture, game studies, and on how the choices we make reproduce the defensiveness that is so readily seen in discussions around video games. 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

An Interview with Shannon Sun-Higginson

"GTFO" is a new film that looks at harassment of women in the gaming industry. Directed by Shannon Sun-Higginson, the film features interviews with prominent female game developers, as well as new animated sequences from Naoko Saito. Credit: Shannon Sun-Hugginson / "GTFO"

Shannon Sun-Higginson is a Philadelphia-based producer, director, and editor. Her first feature documentary GTFO, about women in the video game industry, was funded on Kickstarter, premiered at SXSW 2015, and has been featured in The New York Times among other… Continue Reading