This special issue represents a call back to the radical politics and the radical political potential of exploring queerness in and through games. It also represents a call to question, challenge, and ultimately move beyond the neoliberal rhetorics of representation and inclusion that continue to surround games and LGBTQ issues. Each of the articles in this issue explores queerness in games in modes that move beyond representation. These articles encompass a range of voices and perspectives. The authors featured here come from many different disciplines, backgrounds, and identity positions.
A number of them are game makers as well as game scholars, which demonstrates the value of bridging theory and praxis. Together, these authors push our thinking about games, identity, and culture in important new directions by prompting us to consider how queerness can be brought to games or stripped from games through many means: These articles are inspired by the spirit of queerness as both an umbrella term for LGBT people and an ethos: In this sense, queerness is not so much a stable, clearly defined sexual orientation as it is a way of seeing and experiencing the world: The forms of identity, desire, intimacy, and disruption that we are drawn to in games are not surface level representations of difference.
Nor do they strive simply for increased representation and inclusion, drawing marginalized subjects into the existing hegemonies of video games. Instead, they challenge norms. They undermine dominant structures of power. Yet, they also remain skeptical: The modes of queerness in games explored in this issue -- as well as the ways of approaching games through the lens of queerness represented here -- are not gay as in happy. They are queer as in resist. Resistance, a central tenet for those who value social justice in an era of resurgent white nationalism and far-right movements around the globe, is an undercurrent of the present moment for games and the cultures that surround them.
This resistance is being enacted by people who make games, people who study games, and people who build gaming communities, as well as by games themselves. Resistance in, through, around, and against video games takes many forms. We also see the work of resistance in the organizing efforts of Game Workers Unite, which challenges the exploitative labor practices of the games industry and calls for the unionization of game developers Sinclair, We see the work of resistance in the social action efforts of those bold academics -- many of them women and others in precarious positions -- who worked to successfully shut down the ACE Advances in Computer Entertainment conference, which had become a vehicle for discriminatory punditry Deterding, We likewise see the work of resistance in games created by women of color like A.
Darke, Lishan AZ, and Momo Pixel, which use play to perform activist interventions around race, gender, and discrimination. There can be no meaningful engagement with games as a widely influential media form that does not acknowledge this reality. Video games offer opportunities for resistance. At the same time, it is crucial to resist games themselves, at least as we know them today: Both historically and in the present day, video games as a medium and an industry have been aligned with the forces of hegemony and empire Fron et al.
The field of game studies, too, with its canon of straight, white, cisgender men and its longstanding emphasis on supposedly apolitical formalism, has also been implicated in these systems of oppression Murray, ; Malkowski and Russworm, These are broad claims, admittedly, and we acknowledge that there are many valuable exceptions -- games, game makers, and game scholars who have used play to question dominant structures of power.
Given the history surrounding games and game studies, however, it is particularly crucial to bring to the surface this undercurrent of resistance. Approaching games through queer studies is both an invitation to resist and itself an act of resistance.
This is because resistance is at the heart of queer studies. Like its related disciplines of feminist studies and critical race studies, queer studies acknowledges and embraces the political nature of academic knowledge production. Indeed, the emergence of queer studies in the early s, a moment when homosexuality was becoming increasingly acceptable in mainstream U. In our current dire political moment, we must insist on the radical implications of queerness or betray this legacy.
Like game studies, queer studies is now more than two decades old. Over that time, queer studies scholars have continued to grapple with the changing nature of politicized identity and its relationship to scholarly practice. They write:. Its political utility stems, in part, from its demand that we engage with power and identity in all of their complexities.
Addressing these complexities in video games requires attending to many layers of gamic systems, including but not limited to representation, procedural logics, hardware, player communities, and economic concerns. It also requires bringing together multiple methodologies and approaches to making meaning Krzywinska, Holding these varied factors in tension with one another is an important step toward understanding how power flows through video games as assemblages and overlapping systems. The intersection between queerness and games is itself a nexus of systems and possibilities that are complicated and at times contradictory.
The inclusion of LGBTQ people in game narratives and the labor structures of the video game industry are only part of the equation. In many ways, the queerness of queer game studies and of games more broadly is not yet here. We must bring it into being. Queerness is political, yet so are games. It is no longer acceptable to overlook the political implications of the medium.
GamerGate has forced the gaming community, including academic game studies, to take seriously the longstanding warnings, analysis, acts of resistance, and pleas for help from marginalized folks who play and work on video games. The troubles that structure GamerGate are not new to many of us--especially for feminists, queer people, and people of color who speak publicly about the need to shift discussions around video games to concerns of social justice.
Yet where was this communal fervor from privileged colleagues when coordinated online harassment campaigns were attacking junior scholars for publishing feminist writing on games Chess and Shaw, , or when women games commentators like those from Feminist Frequency became the objects of violent threats Jenson and de Castell, , or when Dickwolves were running amok in fandom Salter and Blodgett, ? The knowledge necessary to understand and adequately address to toxic masculinity, white supremacy, transphobia, homophobia, and ableism as it exists in games and game communities is already available Shaw, Making such work central to game studies scholarship is an ethical, and intellectual, imperative.
We are not the first to call for the field to confront the politics of games--nor the first to recognize the challenges of such a call. Historically, attempts to politicize game studies have been fraught with trouble. It brings to mind interpersonal and intergroup conflict, productive and circular intellectual dispute, political and consumerist agitation, and more. We might also think about how game studies has needed to defend video games against moral panics about school shootings and sexboxes, backing the field into defensive stance against controversy.
These are just a few examples of the troubles within games, game cultures, and game studies that the radical potential of queerness inspires us to identify and resist. This special issue both builds from and productively enriches a vibrant, growing body of contemporary scholarship that explores queerness, games, and play. Over the past half a decade, there has been a considerable increase in game studies work invested in queerness and games both digital and analog.
To date, queer game studies has addressed a range of topics. Longstanding questions from within game studies more broadly about representation Consalvo, a , player and developer demographics Taylor, , and the nuances of player-avatar identification MacCallum-Stewart, have been raised often.
Though important research on gender and sexuality in games has been conducted by scholars in the s and s -- some notable examples include T. Recently, interests in affect, platform, and temporality, driven by other trends in critical theory, are coming to the surface in both scholarly and non-academic thinking about queerness in games. New games like Dream Daddy Game Grumps, and Life is Strange Dontnod Entertainment, have achieved mainstream success while explicitly courting queer audiences. The authors in this issue engage with and expand beyond many of these topics, springboarding in valuable new directions.
Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture as the first monograph to focus on queer issues in marginalized communities that play games--though and will see the release of additional queer game studies monographs. One of the recurring projects of existing queer game studies scholarship has been constructing the history of queerness and games. Databases like Queerly Represent Me and the LGBTQ Video Games Archive research and document the existence of queer characters in video games, which extends as far back as the s much earlier than many people think.
Recently, researchers working in conjunction with the LGBTQ Video Games Archive resurrected what is believed to be the oldest gay-themed video game in existence: More and more scholars, especially junior scholars who represent the next generation of the field, are coming to the work of queer game studies. Queer game studies does not exist in an academic vacuum. It has deep ties to communities of queer game makers and players.
As one of many origin points for the rise of discussions around queerness and games, many point to the influence of independent video games by queer and trans artists like Anna Anthropy, Mattie Brice, merrit kopas, Porpentine, Liz Ryerson, and more. In the commercial arena, blockbuster games like Overwatch Blizzard Entertainment, and Dragon Age: Inquisition Bioware, have begun featuring LGBTQ characters more prominently and more positively in their narratives.
BioWare has played a particularly visible role in bringing attention to queerness in mainstream games. Important shifts have also occurred in the queer communities that surround games. The first queer-focused fan convention, GaymerX, debuted in Just this year, SonicFox was crowned the top esports player in the world at the international Game Awards. In front of a crowd of thousands and countless more watching remotely , he concluded his acceptance speech by proclaiming, "I'm gay, Black, a furry - pretty much everything a Republican hates - and the best esports player of the year, I guess!
Queer game studies is tied to politics, both within games and at a national level, as well as the work of political resistance. Academic interests in queerness and games have enjoyed growing popularity and visibility in part thanks to a surging mainstream interest in identity and social justice.
At the same time, it is not coincidental that queer game studies began picking up speed at the same moment that large-scale online harassment campaigns against feminist game commentators were first coming to the attention of mainstream media, or that the growing interest in this area exists side by side with the rise of GamerGate and its alleged connections to the Alt-Right. While it is true that outside interest in the field has spiked in light of high-profile harassment events, we contest two prominent narratives about harassment in online spaces: There is a longer and richer history of feminist and queer work on video games dating back at least to the early s.
Given this, it is fitting that resistance is a theme that crosses all of the articles in this issue. Resistance manifests in different forms in each of these pieces; who resists, what they resist, and how resistance is enacted are factors that productively vary across these works. Firstly, a number of pieces in this issue identify resistance in the cultural production and meaning-making practices of game players themselves -- especially video game fans. Early work on fan cultures by scholars like Joanna Russ , Henry Jenkins , and Constance Penley laid the foundations for understanding how fans resist the normative politics of their beloved entertainment media through their own media creation.
To address this, the authors analyze metadata in the online fan fiction database Archive Of Our Own. Through their study of author-generated tags, Dym, Brubaker, and Fiesler demonstrate how game fans resist the existing limits of LGBTQ representation in video games by reimagining these games with additional transgender characters and characters of other non-normative genders. The authors also resist standard logics of representation by suggesting that, while explicitly queer and trans game characters are important to fan communities, characters whose identities are left ambiguous also provide compelling opportunities for the creation of fan work.
Similar to how game fans can enact resistance by writing fiction, players can also push back against the status quo of video games by creating queer game mods unofficial game modifications that introduce queer content into existing video games -- a strategy of queer resistance explored by scholars like Evan Lauteria and promoted by queer indie game makers Anthropy, A second mode of resistance that the articles in this issue address is resistance as it is performed in and through game development practices -- as well as why such attempts to resist might fail.
Feminist and queer concerns about games and social justice are also highly relevant to the games industry and the ways in which games get made. Here, multiple authors speaking from hybrid theory-practice positions reflect on what it might mean to make games from a place of queerness. In this piece, Stone deftly interweaves elements more traditionally found in game design post mortems with provocative insights from queer theory and disability studies.
Similarly drawing from their own experiences with game making, Marcotte argues that designers can reimagine their engagement with games at the level of the controller as a valuable way to rethink how power, ability, and heteronormativity operate in video games.
Freedman looks at game engines in order to articulate how the innate queerness of computer programming languages becomes disciplined through the development pipeline, which norms and constrains queer possibility and other forms of resistance. Resisting hegemonic logics is another thread that crosses these articles. Queer theory has long been invested in understanding how queerness challenges the heteronormative ways of thinking that structure society -- such as by disrupting accepted notions of time Halberstam, ; Freeman, , space Bouthillette, Ingram, Retter, ; Ahmed, , and feeling Sedgwick, ; Ahmed , ; Chen, To be queer is to exist differently, to bump up against these norms, and to reshape or destroy them in moments of friction; this resistance can be found in material queer bodies as well as ethereal queer concepts.
Many of the authors in this special issue are likewise invested in how queerness can bring into question the structures, systems, and affects typically associated with games. Knutson juxtaposes time in esports, which standardizes player behavior according to heteronormative temporalities, to time in games like Life is Strange , which operates more queerly by deemphasizing the virtuosity and frame-perfect performance of competitive gaming.
In this piece, Knutson demonstrates the queer potential of game design that resists the normative logics of how video games structure time.
Goetz argues that, while video games are undoubtedly imbricated in the white supremacist cisheteropatriarchal power dynamics of global capital, they also have the capacity to disrupt this power by steering players away from the activities that maximize productivity. Lastly, these articles address the ways in which queerness itself can meet resistance. Even in celebrating the growing presence of queerness in games, it is important to attend to the fact that inclusion itself can be limiting.
In the case of some games, the inclusion of LGBTQ characters and narrative elements actually reinforces hegemonic power structures. Queer Easter eggs, writes James, have been historically important for queer representation in video games, yet they also serve to further push queerness to the margins of the medium. Through this critique, Youngblood powerfully resists dominant strands within queer game fandom by calling for a reevaluation of the values embodied by a much-loved series that is often seen as the go-to example of queer inclusion in mainstream video games.
This special issue, with its focus on the radical potential of queerness and games, also enacts its own form of resistance. Queer game studies, as a larger movement within game studies, resists the norms of the discipline: Yet the moment of resistance that this issue represents is both more particular and more pointed. As a top journal in the field, Game Studies brings considerable visibility and legitimacy to queer game studies though it is also crucial to remain skeptical of such economies of legitimacy. The present issue is in fact the largest in the history of the journal.
That this issue presents more than a dozen voices foregrounding queer perspectives is itself a manifestation of the power of resistance. Rather, we aim to de-center the center, to resist the very hierarchy that dictates that certain ways of knowing and being are marginal or central. It is an honor to bring this new work in queer game studies to new readers, from game studies and beyond. At the same time, more than an informative introduction to the intersection of queerness and games for our straight, cisgender colleagues, we see this issue as a beacon for our fellow queers: We see you.
We value you. Join the resistance. Our commitment to the politics of resistance also demands that we resist ourselves. By this we mean that we must maintain self-criticality and welcome critiques of our own positionality. Game Studies is a venerated venue that brings status and validation, as much as we ourselves want to resist these hierarchical systems of value. Both special issue editors hold tenure-track faculty positions at respected universities. We have worked hard for these privileges, but they are privileges nonetheless.
This is an exciting moment for queer game studies, but also a slippery one. As an emerging paradigm, queer game studies is still new: Yet that means it risks hardening, growing disciplined i. To uphold the very ethos of queerness, we must seek ways to allow this work to shift, to veer, and even to revolt against itself. We must resist the desire for a disciplinary stamp of approval.
In addition, while we believe that this special issue brings many important new topics of discussion to queer game studies, we recognize that there are crucial topics not foregrounded here. There is still a need for more thorough engagement with disability. There is still a need to further investigate the place of queerness in analog games, such as in live-action role-playing games, both as experiences of play Sihvonen and Stenros, and objects of design Trammell and Waldron, These topics merit additional future research.
We hope that others will take up this scholarship, drawing inspiration both from our insights and our omissions. Frustration, anger, and longing are all valid and valuable drivers of the work of resistance. The articles in this issue call on us to look for new sites of queer potential in games, and also to confront the limitations of that potential. If the story that is still commonly told about the place of queerness in games is one about an empowering push for greater representation and inclusion, these articles tell a different story.
Yet, the pieces presented here leave us with a constellation of questions and provocations that cannot be ignored.
For queer people, both players and scholars, why should representation and inclusion be our goals? If mainstream video games are the medium of empire, why would we want to be represented in them? If the video game industry is exploitative, what is the value of being included in it? Why should our queerness be subsumed into the capitalist machinery of making games and consuming them? Is there such a thing as radical inclusion?
There are no easy answers to these questions. This issue points us toward a radical vision of queerness and games that lies on the horizon: This issue could never have come to fruition without the help of many, many individuals. Open access publishing is a worthy and important enterprise, but it requires all hands on deck. We wish to thank the editors and staff of Game Studies for the opportunity to assemble this special issue, and for their guidance and assistance throughout the process. We are also grateful to the anonymous volunteer reviewers who gave their time and labor so generously to read and comment on the submissions, and for the authors who worked bravely and tirelessly to bring their ideas to the world.
We are sustained by the entire community of queer game studies, but particularly by Alexandrina Agloro, Josef Nguyen, and Adrienne Shaw, whose emotional and intellectual support throughout this and many other projects has been invaluable. Amanda Phillips would also like to thank Caetlin Benson-Allott, Alexis Lothian, and Dana Luciano for their advice and input during the editorial process.
Bo Ruberg would like to thank Aaron Trammell for his support, as well as the fierce, playful co-organizers past and present of the Queerness and Games Conference, who have helped bring queer game studies and queer game communities into being. And finally, to the queer, trans, nonbinary, antiracist, decolonial, feminist, and otherwise outcast troublemakers of our community, inside and outside of video games and game studies: You give us a reason to do the work and keep the conversation rolling, and we hope to always be of service to the resistance.
Fuck respectability. Fuck white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy. It is part of who I am; I can't change what I experienced. In the surprise announcement Noah Michelson makes it clear his experience with the word wasn't traumatic. He says, the page needs to be more inclusionary and "queer" is more inclusionary. As to why they didn't call it "Queer Voices" from the start he writes, "some people felt that the term was too controversial, too divisive and, because of its history as a slur, perhaps just too painful to use.
Well, it is controversial ; the almost universally negative comments I saw following his surprise announcement proves that. It is divisive and it is painful. Inclusionary only includes people without those painful experiences. You can't be inclusionary and divisive at the same time. What I think, or what other writers or readers think, is pretty much irrelevant. The change is presented as a fait accompli. Inclusion doesn't include very many people. I didn't live Mr. Michelson's life.
He sure didn't live mine. He thinks, "Queer" functions as an umbrella term that includes not only the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people of "LGBT," but also those whose identities fall in between, outside of or stretch beyond those categories, including genderqueer people, intersex people, asexual people, pansexual people, polyamorous people and those questioning their sexuality or gender, to name just a few. Fair enough, but it also excludes all the asexual, polyamorous, pansexuals, gays, bisexual, lesbians and transgender individuals who find "queer" insulting, degrading and painful.
It excludes huge segments of the community, who didn't have Mr. I'm glad he didn't have my life.
Options comment tweet share email print. NYU Press. Given this, it is fitting that resistance is a theme that crosses all of the articles in this issue. At the same time, more than an informative introduction to the intersection of queerness and games for our straight, cisgender colleagues, we see this issue as a beacon for our fellow queers: Exploring Online Game Culture.
From the moment I came out on radio in to oppose the Anita Bryant campaign, I've been fighting so that no one has to have the life I had. I don't want kids today to know the pain of being called "queer," pain that was often as physical as it was emotional. To have it inflicted us by our allies is no less traumatic and painful.
If anything, it is worse. I don't expect human decency or understanding from the bigots. But, here I feel as if I'm again being told I'm not welcome, I'm an outsider. I'm not one of the "in-kids" that everyone had to make happy. My pain, my experience--they don't matter. Once again, thanks to the "queer" term, I'm being locked out and excluded. I've never denied another person the right to embrace whatever term they want.
But, I'm not embracing "queer," it is being imposed on me, just like it was when I was growing up. Now, if I choose to continue contributing to this page, the word "Queer" will be emblazoned across the top of the page.
This may be my last contribution to what I will always call “Gay Voices.” I am no fan of the decision by office staff to label us all “Queer” in the. Gay but not queer: Toward a post-queer study of sexuality. ADAM ISAIAH GREEN. Indiana University, Bloomington. In recent years, in the wake of queer theory.
It will be attached to my columns, regardless of my wishes. I know had this page been originally called Queer Voices, I wouldn't have bothered contributing to it, or reading it for that matter. I'm just one writer in the community of mostly unpaid contributors. But, I don't feel like the community is mine anymore.
I've been kicked out.
I'm here, I'm not queer, get used to it. Actually, the "I'm here" part is what I'm left reconsidering. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. Woman giving thumbs down hand gesture, black and white image. Queer Life Bullying.