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LGBTQ VIDEO GAME ARCHIVE

VISIT THE ARCHIVE! The LGBTQ Video Game Archive will be an online resource documenting all of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (and queerly read) characters and related content in digital games from the 1980s to 2015. Currently there are nearly 300 games on the list to be documented, though the list continues to grow. The site will include all available information on the LGBTQ characters and content, sorting through conflicting accounts as much as possible. It will document characters who are implicit and explicitly coded as or rumored to be queer men, queer women, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, non-binary, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming (note: those are not mutually exclusive categories); locations (e.g. gay bars); mentions (e.g. calling a character gay); Easter Eggs; actions (e.g. cross-dressing as a required game activity); optional same-sex relationships/romance/sex pairings; artifacts (e.g. gender changing objects); games that are inherently queer or have narratives that are about queerness; and any homophobic and transphobic narratives or actions in games. It will also document if games were changed during localization or porting processes or were modded to include queerness by players. In addition to documenting games, the site will include a list of citations (popular and academic) that deal with LGBTQ representation in games. The site is now publicly available, and will be used in a series of […]
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REFIGURING E-SPORTS

While professional e-sports has enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, fuelled by the rise of live-streaming platforms like Twitch.tv as well as the global popularity of competitive games such as League of Legends, it remains a male-dominated industry. This project looks to build on feminist research currently underway in the rich yet relatively undocumented terrain of ‘mid-level’ competition — collegiate e-sports clubs, LAN tournaments, amateur online leagues — as these are sites of relatively new but intensifying experimentation for an e-sports industry looking to grow its audiences. This presents a vital opportunity for scholars to not only document, but help shape this emergent terrain in a way that promotes diversity — both in terms of subjectivities and skill levels.   Our aim with this group-based, multi-sited ethnography is to comprehensively document forms of female and genderqueer participation in elite, mid-level, and amateur competitive play in one of the biggest public gaming events in the world, DreamHack. Through a collective ethnography, a deep exploration of player, organizational and institutional practices produced across competitive gaming can be realized, making visible forms of female participation that are understood to be present, but are routinely obscured by journalistic, promotional and academic forms of reporting. […]
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GAMES, GENDERED REPRESENTATION AND SUBJECTIVITY

In this study, gendered representation in games is approached through a focus on subjectivity. To date, studies that have addressed representation in games have often drawn on the psychoanalytic theory that has proven so influential within film studies. Yet the limitations of this approach have long been acknowledged by film theorists: it relies on a particular modelling of the relationship between the viewer, the screen, and meaning-making, which entails overlooking (to some degree or other) audience agency and difference.  This is a problem for game analysts, because agency is central to gaming. As a result, accounts of in-game representation that are founded on theories of identification derived from psychoanalytic screen studies scholarship have limited traction. By focusing on subjectivity, this project can address the same concerns (the politics of gendered representation in games) while more directly acknowledging the playability of games. The conceptualization of subjectivity that is central to this study is informed by feminist media and cultural studies literature, and by research that has applied Foucault’s work to specific realms. In such research, accounts of subject formation in specific cultural and historical contexts have been developed (e.g. sociological literature on education and governmentality). This literature makes it clear that […]
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MAPPING GENDER IDENTITY IN DIGITAL GAMES

Over the course of a year we will collect qualitative data on the representations of gender identity in the twenty-five most popular console games from 2015 in order to plot the various figures — the stereotypes, archetypes and new formations — of gendered identity that digital games enshrine, legitimate, demean and demonize. Our inquiry is guided by concern for the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes in games and seeks to discern: What rhetorical figures of gender identity are deployed in the 25 best-selling games? What is the valence attributed to each figure in the 25 best-selling games? How significant is the presence of differently valued figures in the 25 best-selling games? Feminist rhetorical analysis of the data collected in the qualitative content analysis phase of the project will enable the (re)assembly of various figures of gender identity. We posit that these figures of gender identity are rhetorical constructs that do the work of making sensible specific configurations of sexuality, personality, appearance and performance. These rhetorical figures, then, both constrain and enable how players might enact their own gender identity; they constitute what Foucault calls a “grid of intelligibility,” which Adrienne Shaw explains, both inspire and render intelligible a person’s performance of […]
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RECASTING PLAYER TWO

The game development industry is currently on a mission to include “non-gamers” in local co-op games. Within the development community and among players, these games are said to have a “girlfriend mode.” Developers often cast player one as an expert player in their own image, while player two is a projection of antiquated gender stereotypes who has less agency and control over their play experience. This type of interaction would be better described as mansplaining in motion. We need more diverse games, not just in terms of theme, narrative and representation, but also in regards to mechanics and interaction modes. This project consists of a series of workshops with participants from the game development community, where we not just discuss and spread awareness of what is problematic with current games and development practices, but work together in creating better alternatives. Investigators: Mikael Jakobsson
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SYSTEM.FAILURE

"Feminism is as important as ever. The ongoing diversification of game culture in this second decade of the 21st century has seen the emergence of a ‘culture war’ in which online groups sustain abuse campaigns against historically marginalized individuals and groups. Amidst this and other contemporary concerns it is possible to see a groundswell of a new generation of feminists rallying around the work at hand. As this activity grows it becomes increasingly important to acknowledge the schisms within the feminist movement itself. For all its successes feminism does fail individuals, groups, and classes of people whether intentionally or not, and real harm is often wrought on those most vulnerable. Shunning, factioning and ejection are just some examples of how communities can behave. A central part of building a sustainable coalition of feminist activity lies in building inclusive approaches to resolve conflict, reduce harm and to protect those at risk. SYSTEM.FAILURE recognizes that these are systematic issues and is a research-led game jam invested in exploring, through game design, failure in the context of contemporary feminism. Participants will look at how games can model the harm we inflict on one another in order to understand the dynamics of these situations and […]
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