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
Content warning for discussions of sexualized violence.
Outside a small handful of reviews with each new release, little attention has been paid to the Deception (Tecmo, 1996-2015) series. This is in spite of the critical depth a close reading of these games can afford. In an industry that has consistently struggled with representing women, all but the first Deception game see female protagonists driving the narrative (Zorrilla 2011, Van Name 2013, Statt 2016). And during a time when commercial games like Resident Evil (Capcom 1996), Alone in the Dark (Infogrames 1992), and Clock Tower (Human Entertainment 1995) looked to film for their exploration of horror (Edge 2010, par. 5; Rasa, 2017), the Deception games looked to slasher films and offered players a world in which they both actively perpetrate violence and avoid such threats themselves. Continue Reading
Geekiness is getting a makeover! The geeks, weirdos, and nerds who once stood at the fringes of consumer culture now find themselves at the center. In a poignant inversion, Dungeons & Dragons—a game once renown for its supposedly dark and cultish fanbase—has become mythic. It gives all of us who have once loved it the feels along with warm nostalgic memories. As our consumer culture reorients to position games at its center, the center disciplines and norms the fraught geeky bodies which were once positioned at its margins. Continue Reading
There’s a scene that Bonnie Ruberg describes in the final chapter of Queer Game Studies (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), which still resonates long after I finished the work. It’s a scene of the inevitable social banter after a panel discussion at an academic conference where, as Ruberg states, she feels “pressured to either tone down my queerness […] or to perform it” (271). For Ruberg, her queerness is not evident in people’s assumptions of her while also simultaneously too evident in her research in queer gaming. She reminds herself to not mention her ex-girlfriend and to silence her kinkiness; she dresses the professional part to blend in and answers questions about her research with a smile on her face—and yet, she still deals with feelings of being “the weird grad student” and with people’s seemingly never-ending questions of “Queerness? And games?” with a twinge of disgust (272). Continue Reading
Despite their historically tumultuous relationship with issues of gender and representation, many scholars and game journalists have argued that video games are generally moving in the right direction (Lynch, Tompkins, van Driel & Fritz, 2016; McNally, 2016), at least visually. While progress on the image front has taken us from scantily-clad polygon Barbies to humbly-garbed warrior women, vocals – we argue – have done the opposite, regressing from synthetic vowels to overdramatized breathy moans. Continue Reading
Following the release of their 2016 title, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Ubisoft released a downloadable companion game in which players are given the opportunity to once again walk the streets of Victorian London with assassin twin siblings, Jacob and Evie Frye, to investigate the unsolved crimes of the famed murderer known as Jack the Ripper. Yet rather than retelling the story about two twins who use cunning and skill to save London, the DLC sets its sights on Evie as the hero of the game. Cool and uncompromising, Evie sets herself apart as a playable protagonist proving that female video game characters do not need to be young, inexperienced, or rely on others in order to succeed and win. Continue Reading
The lack of gendered diversity within the video game industry is well documented. Research suggests that only 22% of the video game workforce identifies as female, a figure that declines further to 11% when we look only at core technical positions (Weststar et al., 2016). The issue of women’s underrepresentation, as well as sexism across the industry and culture, has become the subject of heated debate in recent years. The events of GamerGate in 2014, where female games journalists, developers, and critics became the targets of misogynistic abuse, stand out as a poignant example of the polemic nature of this topic. Continue Reading