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July 06 2015


Call for Papers - Critical Gaming Lab!


CFP: Video Games, Culture & Justice

The purpose of this edited volume is to propel game studies towards a more responsive existence in the area of social justice.  The text will attempt to move beyond the descriptive level of analysis of what and begin engaging the why, highlighting the structural and institutional factors perpetuating inequalities that permeate gaming culture and extend into a myriad of institutions.  The public outcry associated with GamerGate has put ‘why’ at the forefront of game studies. GamerGaters, who gained media attention through their misogynist and racist attacks on women gamers and developers, even tried to justify their campaign as an attempt to restore the ethics needed in video game journalism.

This attack directed at ‘social justice warriors’ brought the hidden reality of harassment, cyberbullying, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other injustices to light.  These attacks are part and parcel of gaming culture; challenges to the lack of diversity or the gross stereotypes are often met with demonization and rhetorical violence directed at those who merely seek to help gaming reach its fullest potential. Yet, in these struggles, we must move beyond individual acts of prejudice, discrimination, and microaggressions to examine the structural and institutional factors that allow them to exist.   We must look at how the daily practices sustain what Mark Anthony Neal calls “micro-nooses” and lived reality of violence on and offline.

Amid this culture of violence, the gaming industry has embraced the rhetoric of diversity and inclusion.  In response to protests, game developers have incorporated statements asserting their commitment to producing diverse games and building an industry no longer dominated by white men. Given the post-racial rhetorical turn of the last six years, it is important to push conversations about gaming and gamers beyond diversity, to expose the disconnect between rhetorics of multiculturalism and the struggle for justice and equity.  It is important to highlight the contradiction between ideals of inclusion espoused within the video game industry and society as a whole and the persistence of injustices within the structural and institutional context in which they may have developed. This compilation not only seeks to answer these questions but also to produce work that intervenes in the culture of violence and inequity from which these works emanate from inside and outside of academia.

Traditionally, academic public discourses concerned with criminal justice focused on issues pertaining to crime and legal justice; within game studies, there has an effort to examine criminogenic effects of violent video games on the streets.  We must move beyond this simple construction of justice and video games.  This interdisciplinary text defines justice broadly, but in terms to speak to the struggle of racial, gender, and social justice.  Moving beyond abstract principles, the collection focuses on the stakes playing out in virtual reality, demonstrating the ways that struggles for justice online, in the policy booth, in the court house, in our schools, in legislatures and in streets must be waged online.  

As such, this collection seeks a broader range of critical perspectives on justice issues within gaming culture seeking whether gaming culture can foster critical consciousness, aid in participatory democracy, and effect social change.  It will give voice to the silenced and marginalized, offering counter narratives to those post-racial and post-gendered fantasies that so often obscure the violent context of production and consumption. In offering this framework, this volume will be grounded in the concrete situations of marginalized members within gaming culture

Early career scholars, game industry personnel, gaming activists, graduate students, and others are invited to submit work addressing the connected themes of Video Games, Culture, & Justice.  Suggested essay topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • Representation and Identity in Video Games
  • Examining the complex nature of intersections
  • Marginalized identities within gaming culture
  • Developing culturally responsive games
  • Activism within video games
  • Power and anonymity
  • Negative experiences in multiplayer settings
  • Applying social justice theories to gaming
  • Militarization and video games
  • Cyberbullying, online harassment, and other virtual violence
  • Policing game communities
  • Swatting and blurring boundaries of virtual and physical spaces
  • Online disinhibition, anonymity, and trolling
  • The impact of serious games and games for change
  • Hacking inequalities (sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, etc)
  • Solutions to eliminate bias
  • Hypermasculinity in tech culture
  • Methodological successes and challenges
  • Genre, representation, and social justice
  • Gaming interfaces as social praxis
  • The graphical arms race: hyperreality, phenotype, and identity

Please submit abstracts (500 word max) along with a short bio and your CV/resume to gamesculturejustice@gmail.com by September 15th, 2015. 

Authors will be notified by October 5th, 2015 if their proposals have been accepted for the prospectus.  Final essays should be within the range of 4000 – 6000 words, submitted as a Word or Rich Text Format. 

Notifications to submit full essays will occur shortly after abstracts are submitted and they will be due December 28th, 2015.  For more information please contact the co-editors at gamesculturejustice@gmail.com.  

Deadline for Abstracts: September 15th, 2015

Full Essays Due: December 28th, 2015

André Brock (University of Michigan), Co-Editor

Kishonna L Gray (Eastern Kentucky University), Co-Editor

David J Leonard (Washington State University), Co-Editor

André Brock (Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan.  His research interests include digital and online performances of race and culture, African American technoculture, and critical cultural informatics.  Follow him on Twitter @DocDre.

Kishonna L. Gray (Ph.D., Arizona State University) is the Director of the Critical Gaming Lab at Eastern Kentucky University as well as faculty in the School of Justice Studies, African/African-American Studies, & Women & Gender Studies.  Her work broadly intersects identity and new media although she has a particular focus on gaming.  Her most recent book, Race, Gender, & Deviance in Xbox Live, provides a much-needed theoretical framework for examining deviant behavior and deviant bodies within that virtual gaming community.  Her work can be found at www.kishonnagray.com and at www.criticalgaminglab.com.  Follow her on Twitter @DrGrayThaPhx and @CriticalGameLab.

David J. Leonard (Ph.D., University of California – Berkeley) is Associate Professor and chair in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University, Pullman.  He regularly writes about issues of race, gender, inequality, and popular culture.  His work has appeared in a number of academic journals and anthologies.  His works can be found at http://www.drdavidjleonard.com. Follow him on Twitter @drdavidjleonard.

July 04 2015

Reposted byidzi idzi

July 03 2015

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Tamagotchi Hive
The Singularity happened, but not to us.

July 01 2015

Almost 60 years after the invention of video games, we’re still trying to figure out how to use modern game engines to animate a believable hug.
— Sheva
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Strengths and Weaknesses
Do you need me to do a quicksort on the whiteboard or produce a generation of offspring or something? It might take me a bit, but I can do it.

June 29 2015

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Connected Worlds is a large scale immersive, interactive ecosystem developed for the New York Hall of Science. The installation is composed of six interactive ecosystems spread out across the walls of the Great Hall, connected together by a 3000 sqft interactive floor and a 45ft high waterfall. Children can use physical logs to divert water flowing across the floor from the waterfall into the different environments, where they can then use their hands to plant seeds. As the different environments bloom, creatures appear based on the health of the environment and the type of plants growing in it. If multiple environments are healthy creatures will migrate between them causing interesting chain reactions of behaviors.


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Otherwise known as Margaret the Destroyer, I will bring pain to the the Great One. Then again, maybe I won't.

June 26 2015

Just because a game decided it’s a woman shooting a dude in the face doesn’t change why I feel disconnected from this medium.
— Mattie Brice
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Team Effort
Given the role they play in every process in my body, really, they deserve this award more than me. Just gotta figure out how to give it to them. Maybe I can cut it into pieces to make it easier to swallow ...

June 25 2015

It is a sorry state of affairs when the gaming industry, for decades, has produced only a very specific kind of entertainment, and that has resulted in an audience that is now culturally illiterate, has appalling attitudes towards social issues and considers art guilty until proven innocent.
— Edward Smith

June 23 2015

Our medium is capable of greatness, but it’s foolish to expect consumers to pay for the kinds of games that will push its boundaries because for the most part, those games will be too experimental, too weird, and too short on “fun.”
— Susan Arendt
In much the same way that PBS exists to make room for television shows that deserve to be seen but likely couldn’t help sell hamburgers or laundry detergent, there should be an arts fund - not a Patreon, not a Kickstarter, a legit fund - for video game creation. Some exist, here and there - in fact such a fund was how Tale of Tales managed to subsist this long - but they’re not large enough to really, truly foster this kind of creative experimentation.
— Susan Arendt
Designers like Tale of Tales need room to grow and experiment and try, even if what they ultimately produce isn’t any “fun” in the traditional, marketable sense. If we just keep relying on “fun,” we’ll end up sinking into a morass of bland pop-culture candy that all looks alike and makes us feel exactly what we’re supposed to when we’re supposed to.
— Susan Arendt

June 22 2015

We need to do something to keep developers like Tale of Tales in business, or else our medium will slowly, but surely, lose that flurry of inventiveness that’s swirling around the thin, thin air.
— Susan Arendt, In defense of games that aren’t “fun”

Sweet Justice. (And puppets.)

According to Rule 34, someone is getting off on this.

According to Rule 34, someone is getting off on this.

Today’s opening act is a left-over I forgot to include in that last post: a bit of flesh sculpture I was not allowed to show off in “Pones & Bones” because it would have risked  spoiling a yet-to-be-aired episode of “Hannibal”. That episode recently aired, though, so the embargo is lifted. Behold: the hoofed, flayed, and headless wonder that I have christened Hoofnibal, both under construction at Mindwarp workshop (right) and during its formal debut during the episode “Primavera” (below) .

I would like to emphasize that there is no CGI in the sequence: Will’s hallucination is a puppet, moving in real time on the set. Let’s hear it for Practical FX.


More to the point, though: Let’s also hear it for The BUG!

A wee bit of background. Early in our courtship, Caitlin Sweet referred to me as “A DOOFUS” (the caps are hers). Stung, I could only reply “That’s Dr. Doofus to you, Unicorn Girl“— which was a not-too-subtle reminder that I write hard-as-nails SF while she writes fluffy rainbow fantasy.

The thing is, though, Caitlin does not write fluffy rainbow fantasy. The only rainbows you’re likely to see in her novels are those that swirl across the oily film on an open sewer. The Pattern Scars begins with its protagonist, a young girl called Nola, going into a trance at the sight of a bloodstain; the next day her mother sells her to the local brothel as a seer. It gets worse from there. (Oh, it seems to get better for a little while. It seems to get suspiciously, unbelievably better, even. But no. Way worse.) I like to think of myself as Captain Stoneface when it comes to my emotional vulnerability to most fiction; I literally teared up at the end of The Pattern Scars.

Caitlin turns tropes inside out. The Pattern Scars, at its heart, is an inversion of the Cassandra myth: instead of a seer whose truthful prophecies are never believed, Caitlin gives us one doomed to prophesy lies which are always accepted as gospel. The Door in the Mountain— part one of a two-parter which concludes with the imminent The Flame in the Maze— retells the Theseus myth through the eyes of an Ariadne who (in a bizarro twist on the sweet hapless innocence of her archetype) is a manipulative sadist driven by rage and jealousy. The supporting cast might best be described as the twisted love-children of Davids Lynch and Cronenberg (Icarus and Daedalus are two personal favorites). Caitlin is way closer to Martin than to Tolkien; the last thing you can call her is “Unicorn Girl”.

Is this not exactly the face that comes to mind when you imagine a female George RR Martin?

Is this not exactly the face that comes to mind when you imagine a female George RR Martin? (Photo: Martin Springett)

Which is, of course, exactly why she enthusiastically embraced the term the moment she saw it (although the official acronym is BUG— Beloved Unicorn Girl— because “UG” lacks the appropriate resonance. Also: Bed BUG).

My point is: Caitlin’s stuff is gritty, gorgeous, and unsentimental. If it contains anything even approaching cliché, you can be assured that that element exists only to be subverted or blown from the water at a later date. She does not do happy endings; the most you’ll get is an ambiguous one.

Did I mention that Erik Mohr's cover art is also up for an Aurora?

Did I mention that Erik Mohr’s cover art is also up for an Aurora?

All of which means she’s not the kind of fantasy author the YA market is likely to swoon over. I think we’ve both lost count of the agents and publishers who’ve turned her down with some variant of You’re a brilliant, brilliant writer but your protagonist is so unlikeable: can’t you make her more like Hermione from Harry Potter?

No. No she can’t, you fucking idiots. She does not write to market. She has never once said I’m going to add a perky sidekick so the popcorn set doesn’t get away. All that matters to the BUG, when she’s writing, is whether the story works the way it’s supposed to. Whether it meets her standards.

And so her stuff gets ignored. Teenyboppers who stumble across it in search of the latest medieval fantasy with a plucky female protagonist scratch their heads and leave, their stomachs vaguely unsettled. When critics find it, they rave; but that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should.

So I am very glad to point out that Caitlin Sweet’s The Door in the Mountain is a finalist for the Sunburst Award, YA category. That category, I think, is misplaced; but the recognition is not. It is, to put not too fine a point on it, About Fucking Time. And I can say this without fear of vote-skewing, because the award is juried.

Yeah, of course I’m biased. Of course she’s my wife. But she wasn’t always.

Why do you think I fell in love with her in the first place?


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M. GUSTAVE: It’s quite a thing winning the loyalty of a woman like that for nineteen consecutive seasons.

June 20 2015

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