Mourning Sex

Letting Go & Liking Girls in The Last of Us

Naughty Dog’s masterwork, The Last of Us, and the recent Left Behind DLC sparked controversy and discussion around two issues: Joel’s rescue of Ellie from the Fireflies and Ellie’s kissing of Riley.

On the surface these are two distinct matters. And, in fact, Joel’s morality and Ellie’s sexuality can and should be given due attention independent of one another. Each is impactful, consequential and full of meaning.

But, I argue, it is by thinking through the relationship between both of these issues that we might come to better understand the changing contours of contemporary culture. The ideas expressed in these striking moments of The Last of Us and the Left Behind DLC both concern gender and sexuality. Specifically, they speak to the death of heteronormativity, however excruciatingly protracted and melodramatic that death may be, and our general inability as a society to cope with this change. Continue Reading

Identification or Desire?

Taking the Player-Avatar Relationship to the Next Level

Bringing queer theory and game studies into conversation with each other, I will argue here that queer desire is the fundamental structure of the player-avatar relationship so often mischaracterized by the notion of identification. If we are to accept the argument sketched out below, that sexual attraction is a motivating factor in like-sex player-avatar relationships, then we must also accept that a great deal of digital gameplay is motivated by queer desire. This means that queer sexualities are not simply invited into gameplay and gamespace, but rather that they already occupy, covertly, a critical position within games and game cultures that enables the possible subversion and transgression of the masculinity and heteronormativity that overtly characterize games and gaming. Continue Reading