[-empyre-] Welcome to Week 2 on -empyre: GAMES AND REPRESENTATION

Soraya Murray semurray at ucsc.edu
Thu Apr 9 06:56:08 AEST 2015

Welcome to WEEK 2 of -empyre's April 2015 discussion dedicated to Digital Media and the Interstices of Identity.

The WEEK 2 theme focuses on issues of GAMES AND REPRESENTATION. These matters have dramatically come to the fore in recent months, although in truth these challenges have faced the games industry and its visual cultural production since its inception. #GamerGate, which purports itself to be about ethics in games journalism, came in the form of misogynistic treatment and violent threats against outspoken women in games who were labeled "Social Justice Warriors" out to destroy games by demanding the industry adhere to so-called PC politics. Women have been threatened, like Anita Sarkeesian, who critiques games for their sexism, and Zoey Quinn, an alternative game designer publicly and falsely maligned by her ex on his blog, setting off a firestorm of debate about her, but also about the state of games criticism. Their private information has been hacked, circulated online with the entreatment that they should be harmed or even killed. In any event, recent games 'culture wars', notably (but not exclusively) #GamerGate, definitively confirmed that games traffic in the politics of representation, just as any other form of mass media. Among other things, the burgeoning indie and alternative games movement(s) happening strike a hopeful note that games and their representations can be more, and can be better than the dominant industry would offer. Also, the demographics of those who play have changed, making the term "gamer" (a label which is under its own duress) potentially more diverse than ever. 

I'm interested to hear from our many guests, some newer to games, some who have been in and around the industry for many years, about their sense of the terrain. As with last week's guests, I would like to begin by asking each of our discussants to talk a little bit about a recent project, and outline some of their intellectual investments, or individual "stake" in the week's topic. 

Shira Chess (US) / Brenda Laurel (US) / Jennifer Malkowski (US) / Stacey Mason (US) / TreaAndrea Russworm (US) / Sarah Schoemann (US) / 


SHIRA CHESS is a critical/cultural theorist whose work interrogates several aspects of gaming and digital culture. Her primary research project considers ways which women gamers are marginalized: through industry conventions, textual constructs, and audience placements of the games deliberately designed for this audience. Recent published articles have examined the #GamerGate phenomenon, as well as several casual game designs, and the use of romance in video games. Additionally, her research also deals with broader aspects of digital culture and pervasive gaming, such as Ingress, Alternate Reality Gaming, and the Slender Man. Recently she co-authored Folklore, Horror Stories, and the Slender Man: The Development of an Internet Mythology (Palgrave, 2014). Her research on gaming and digital culture has been published in Critical Studies in Media Communication; The Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media; Feminist Media Studies; New Media & Society; Games and Culture; and Information, Communication & Society as well as several essay collections. She is an Assistant Professor of Mass Media Arts at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.  Information on her research can be found at http://www.shirachess.com. 

BRENDA LAUREL has worked in interactive media since 1976 as a designer, researcher, writer and teacher.  She worked in the computer game industry from Atari to Activision. She also worked in research labs at Atari, Interval Research, and Sun Labs where she was a Distinguished Engineer. She currently serves as an adjunct professor in Computational Media and research associate in the Digital Arts and New Media programs at U. C. Santa Cruz. Her current work focuses on design research and learning tools. She served as founding chair of the Graduate Program in Design at California College of Arts from 2006 to 2012. She designed and chaired the Graduate Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena (2001-2006). Based on her research in gender and technology at Interval Research (1992-1996), she co-founded Purple Moon in 1996 to create interactive media for girls. In 1990 she co-founded Telepresence Research, focusing on virtual reality and remote presence. Her books include The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design (1990), Utopian Entrepreneur (2001), and Design Research: Methods and Perspectives (2004), and Computers as Theatre, Second Edition (2014).  She earned her BA (1972) from DePauw University and her MFA (1975) and PhD in Theatre (1986) from the Ohio State University.

JENNIFER MALKOWSKI (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) is Assistant Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Film Studies at Miami University of Ohio. Her book manuscript Dying in Full Detail: Mortality and Digital Documentary is under contract at Duke University Press, and her work has been published in Jump Cut, Film Quarterly, and the anthology Queers in American Popular Culture. She is also co-editing a collection, Identity Matters: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Game Studies.

STACEY MASON is a writer, critic, and researcher of interactive narratives. She is currently working toward her Ph.D. in Computer Science with the Expressive Intelligence Studio at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Stacey formerly worked as an editor of interactive literature for Eastgate Systems, a renowned publisher of hypertext literature. She also writes about feminism and gaming culture, and advocates for women in gaming and tech industries.

TREAANDREA M. RUSSWORM received her Ph.D. in English from The University of Chicago.  Currently an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, her articles and book chapters have appeared in Teaching Media, Flow, and in the anthologies Watching While Black and Game On, Hollywood!  She is the co-editor of two edited collections, From Madea to Media Mogul: Theorizing Tyler Perry, and Identity Matters: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Game Studies.  Professor Russworm’s monograph, Blackness is Burning, is about race, popular culture, and the problem of recognition.

SARAH SCHOEMANN is the founder of Different Games and a doctoral student in Digital Media at Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research on interactive tech and games investigates the implications of accessible media and tech as tools for personal expression and social critique within various communities of practice. She is interested in considering the ways the work of individual creators and communities can speak to broader issues of equity and social justice, both online and off. More information may be found at: www.sarahschoemann.com

Soraya Murray, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor 
Film + Digital Media Department
University of California, Santa Cruz

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