Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games

Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games

Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games

Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games

Synopsis

Recent years have seen an increase in public attention to identity and representation in video games, including journalists and bloggers holding the digital game industry accountable for the discrimination routinely endured by female gamers, queer gamers, and gamers of color. Video game developers are responding to these critiques, but scholarly discussion of representation in games has lagged far behind. Gaming Representation examines portrayals of race, gender, and sexuality in a range of games, from casuals like Diner Dash, to indies like Journey and The Binding of Isaac, to mainstream games from the Grand Theft Auto, BioShock, Spec Ops, The Last of Us, and Max Payne franchises. Arguing that representation and identity function as systems in games that share a stronger connection to code and platforms than it may first appear, the contributors to this volume push gaming scholarship to new levels of inquiry, theorizing, and imagination.

Excerpt

Now is an opportune moment for visionary thinking about the gaming industrial complex (GIC) vis-à-vis the intersectionality of gender, sexuality, race, and the ludic imagination, especially as we look toward the third decade of the twenty-first century. Since the remarkable rebound of the video game industry in the 1990s following its near total collapse in the early 1980s, there have been phenomenal transformations in the business, technology, and culture of gaming. Among gaming’s more notable paradigmatic shifts are theoretical debates about the primacy of narratology versus ludology in games’ meaningful play and procedural rhetorics; interrogations of gaming’s structures of play and affective engagement on- and off-line; the rise of professional gaming; and, most recently and interestingly, the neo-formalist tech turn to platform, software, and code studies. Moreover, humanities disciplines finally joined the social/behavioral/cognitive and computing sciences in recognizing video games and the gic as legitimate objects of study. Subsequently, the humanities fields have incorporated vibrant academic gaming studies programs, especially and fittingly in film and media studies. Most pertinent for my consideration here is the fact that humanities and cultural studies’ qualitative analytics and critical discourse methodologies have crafted particularly insightful analyses for understanding and deconstructing race, gender, class, sexuality, and disability matters in society and culture. and yet there apparently is a notable retrenchment from addressing critical theories of identity politics in gaming, if it ever was fully embraced.

Nonetheless, a sign of our millennial times is how willing gaming journalists are to raise concerns about race, gender, and sexuality discourses in gaming culture and in the gic. Additionally, today’s moral panics reflect heightened concerns about society’s increased aggression, violence, misogyny, and racism (to a lesser degree) often attributed to so-called addictive gaming. Consequently, perpetrators of school shootings and even the Gamergate controversy, for example, signify to the public “addictive” gaming’s inevitable dark side. Moreover, the explosive rise in critical discourse analyses of games and gaming cultures in the academy with a concomitant mushrooming in multiplatform gaming journalism—that rightly . . .

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