[-empyre-] Welcome to March 2020 on –empyre- soft-skinned space: The Mixed Realities of Games

Alenda Chang alenda at ucsb.edu
Mon Mar 2 12:47:43 AEDT 2020

Welcome to March 2020 on –empyre- soft-skinned space!

The Mixed Realities of Games
Moderated by Alenda Chang (US)

March 1st to 7th | Week 1: Is green gaming an oxymoron?
Discussants: Sonia Fizek (DE), Jeff Watson (US), and Lauren Woolbright (US)

March 8th to 14th | Week 2: Analog by design
Discussants: Derek Curry (US), Brent Povis (US), Aaron Trammell (US),
and Timothy Welsh (US)

March 15th to 21st | Week 3: Queer, feminist, and race-conscious game studies
Discussants: Ed Chang (US), Amanda Phillips (US), and Bonnie “Bo” Ruberg (US)

March 22nd to 31st | Week 4: Games of empyre (beyond the USA)
Discussants: Tara Fickle (US), Kasyoka Mwanzia (KE), Souvik Mukherjee
(IN), Christopher Patterson (US), and Phillip Penix-Tadsen (US)


Welcome to the March 2020 discussion on –empyre-. Video games are part
of daily life for millions of people, and have inspired a growing
diversity of analytical approaches in the academy. This month’s
discussion will introduce some of these recent approaches and their
proponents, loosely organized around the metaphor of mixed realities.

In technical parlance, mixed reality refers to a blending of the
physical or material world with digital or virtual constructs. Thus
the virtual can project outwards into the real (for example, the
holographic displays at e-sports events [1]), but it can also work to
replace or engulf the real (the goal of most virtual-reality
technology, like Birdly [2]).

Broadly speaking, though, the concept of mixed reality seems to me to
offer much more than “the next evolution in human, computer, and
environment interaction” (Microsoft [3]), something more in line with
Timothy Welsh’s proposed methods in his 2016 book, -Mixed Realism:
Videogames and the Violence of Fiction-.

In other words, “mixed realities” conveniently figure the many other
ways that games and play infiltrate and are infiltrated by non-ludic
matters, from the energy demands of data centers to the bodies,
ideologies, and geographies of players, spectators, and the
uninitiated. Much of my work and the writing, art, and design of those
participating in this month’s conversations chafes at that imagined
division between the “real” and the “virtual” posited in the industry

Week One : : Is green gaming an oxymoron?
How do games represent, obscure, or potentially intervene in
environmental issues? What infrastructures does play demand, from
power, plugs, and the new move to game “streaming,” to recognized
problems of resource extraction and e-waste? What forms of imaginative
environmental/ecological play bear mentioning?

Week Two : : Analog by design
What of all the non-digital games, e.g. board, card, or tabletop
games? How does an attention to the analog reorient us toward the
material underpinnings of games, from player labor (playbor) to game
development workforce issues (diversity, unionization), or games
deliberately meant to be destroyed or played a limited number of times

Week Three : : Queer, feminist, and race-conscious game studies
Certain “gamers” are notorious for their gatekeeping and cultures of
exclusion, famously writ large in the #GamerGate debacle. What
theoretical paradigms and design practices could make game studies and
development more inclusive?

Week Four : : Games of empyre (beyond the USA)
How can we expand or recenter games beyond a certain
Anglo/Western/American imaginary? What are some neglected games and
game histories? Geopolitical implications of games? How do we talk
about games in relation to localization, region, translation, and
colonialism and its aftermaths?

1. https://www.theverge.com/2019/11/11/20959206/league-of-legends-worlds-2019-opening-ceremony-holograms-holonet
2. http://birdlyvr.com/
3. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/mixed-reality/mixed-reality


I genuinely hope that empyre community members will have much to gain
from this discussion, whether or not your work touches directly on
games! I look forward to the discussion.

empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au



Moderator’s Biography:
Alenda Y. Chang is an Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at
the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), whose research and
teaching encompass environmental media, game studies, science and
technology studies, and sound studies. Her first book, Playing Nature:
Ecology in Video Games, develops environmentally informed frameworks
for understanding and designing digital games (University of Minnesota
Press, December 2019). Chang co-directs Wireframe, a UCSB studio that
promotes collaborative theoretical and creative media practice with
investments in global social and environmental justice. She is also
the founding co-editor of a new UC Press open-access journal,
Media+Environment (http://mediaenviron.org).

Guest Biographies:

Week 1
Sonia Fizek (DE)
Professor in Media and Game Studies at the Cologne Game Lab at
Technische Hochschule Köln (Cologne University of Applied Sciences)
and co-editor in chief of the Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds.
Formerly a lecturer / assistant professor at the School of Arts, Media
and Computer Games at Abertay University (2016-2019), and a postdoc
researcher at the Cent­re for Di­gi­tal Cul­tu­res at Leu­pha­na
Uni­ver­si­ty Lüne­burg (2013-2015).

Jeff Watson (US)
Jeff Watson, Ph.D. (@remotedevice) is an Assistant Professor of
Interactive Media and Games at the University of Southern California
School of Cinematic Arts, and a director of the Situation Lab
(@sitlab). An interdisciplinary scholar-designer, Watson uses a range
of methods to investigate the relationships among play, technology,
creativity, and politics. His written works have appeared in journals
such as The Journal of Transformative Works and Cultures, the
International Journal of Learning and Media, and Well Played; and in
books such as Alternate Reality Gaming and the Cusp of Digital
Gameplay (Bloomsbury 2018) and Game Design Workshop (CRC Press 2014).
His artistic and design efforts have reached international audiences,
receiving coverage from publications such as Wired and Fast Company,
and winning awards including the 2012 Impact Award at the IndieCade
International Festival of Independent Games, and the 2015 Most
Significant Futures Award from the Association of Professional
Futurists. Watson is currently completing a book about play,
technology, and power after the Internet.

Lauren Woolbright (US)
Dr. Lauren Woolbright is a professor of new media studies at Alma
College in Alma, MI. She researches and teaches game design,
interactive media, media history, theory, and culture, environmental
communication, and social and environmental justice.

Week 2
Derek Curry (US)
Derek Curry is an Assistant Professor in the College of Arts, Media
and Design at Northeastern University. His interdisciplinary practice
combines artistic production with research techniques from the
humanities, science and technology studies, natural language
processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. He uses a
practice-based research approach to investigate topics where
information may be limited, and to create artworks and games that
provide an experiential understanding of topics where information may
be limited, such as automated decision-making systems used by
algorithmic stock trading systems and Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)
gathering practices.

Brent Povis (US)
There are few times on any given day when Brent Povis (US) is not
designing, playing, or fantasizing about playing tabletop games. This
obsession began at a young age when he realized that most 80’s family
fare in board gaming was lackluster, struggled with that reality, then
was floored by the realization that he had the power to change them.
Brent has been delighted to see the renaissance in board gaming over
the past quarter-century, inspired designs now ubiquitous across
genres and themes. He enjoys the creative challenge of bringing the
outdoors to the kitchen table, art kinetic with sunshine and rustling
leaves and tactics based on evaluation of multiple positive options
such that each turn is like the choice between competing forest paths,
knowing that the day hinges on the moment but that in the end both
present the best of all possible worlds. His 2-player strategy game
Morels (2014 Card Game of the Year) expresses his fascination with
foraging, Agility (2016 Best 2-Player Game Nominee) with animal
behavior, and designs in process our shared attempts to fathom the

Aaron Trammell (US)
Aaron Trammell is an assistant professor of Informatics at UC Irvine.
He graduated from the Rutgers University School of Communication and
Information in 2015 and spent a year at the Annenberg School of
Communication at USC as a postdoctoral researcher. Aaron’s research
looks at the persistence of analog games in today's digital world. He
is interested in how political and social ideology is integrated in
the practice of game design and how these perspectives are negotiated
within the imaginations of players. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the
journal *Analog Game Studies* and the Multimedia Editor of *Sounding

Timothy Welsh (US)
Dr. Timothy J. Welsh is an associate professor of English at Loyola
University New Orleans where he teaches in the Film+Digital Media
concentration. He is the author of Mixed Realism: Videogames and the
Violence of Fiction as well as articles on videogames, digital
culture, and literary theory.

Week 3
Ed Chang (US)
Dr. Edmond Y. Chang is an Assistant Professor of English at Ohio
University. His areas of research include technoculture,
race/gender/sexuality, video games, RPGs, and LARP, feminist media
studies, cultural studies, popular culture, and 20/21C American
literature. He earned his Ph.D. in English at the University of
Washington.  He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on queer
American literature, speculative literature of color, virtual worlds,
games, and writing.  Recent publications include “Drawing the Oankali:
Imagining Race, Gender, and the Posthuman in Octavia Butler’s Dawn" in
Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia E. Butler, “Playing as
Making” in Disrupting Digital Humanities, and “Queergaming" in Queer
Game Studies.  He is completing his first book on algorithmic
queerness and digital games tentatively entitled Queerness Cannot Be

Amanda Phillips (US)
Amanda Phillips (US) is Assistant Professor of English and Film and
Media Studies at Georgetown University. They wrote Gamer Trouble:
Feminist Confrontations in Digital Culture (NYU Press, 2020) and
co-edited the "Queerness and Video Games" issue of Game Studies. Their
other publications can be found in Feminist Media Histories, Games and
Culture, Debates in the Digital Humanities, Queer Game Studies, and

Bonnie “Bo” Ruberg (US)
Bonnie Ruberg, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of
Film and Media Studies and the Program in Visual Studies at the
University of California, Irvine. Their research explores gender and
sexuality in digital media and digital cultures. They are the author
of Video Games Have Always Been Queer (2019, New York University
Press) and the co-editor of Queer Game Studies (2017, University of
Minnesota Press). Ruberg is also the co-founder and co-organizer of
the annual Queerness and Games Conference. They received their Ph.D.
from the University of California, Berkeley and served as a Provost’s
Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Southern California.

Week 4
Tara Fickle (US)
Tara Fickle is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of
Oregon, and Affiliated Faculty of the Department of Ethnic Studies,
the New Media & Culture Certificate, and the Center for Asian &
Pacific Studies. She received her Ph.D. from the University of
California, Los Angeles, and her B.A. from Wesleyan University. Her
book, “The Race Card: From Gaming Technologies to Model Minorities,”
(NYU Press, 2019), explores how games have been used to establish and
combat Asian & Asian American racial stereotypes. More information can
be found at tarafickle.com.

Kasyoka Mwanzia (KE)
Kasyoka Mwanzia is interested in cultural studies and digital media in
the global South including: production, distribution, use, and
consumption of video games; video games as active archives that make
local knowledge discoverable and reusable; and critical making based
on situatedness. At heart she is interdisciplinary and interested in
real world linkages between scholarship, practice and use. Kasyoka
received her MA in Media Arts Cultures from a consortium of
universities in Austria, Denmark and Hong Kong. She will begin
pursuing a doctorate in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University in
Fall 2020.

Souvik Mukherjee (IN)
Souvik Mukherjee is Assistant Professor of English Literature at
Presidency University, Calcutta, India. Souvik has been researching
video games as an emerging storytelling medium since 2002 and has
completed his PhD on the subject from Nottingham Trent University in
2009. He did his postdoctoral research in the humanities faculty of De
Montfort University, UK and at the Indian Institute of Technology in
New Delhi, India where he worked on digital media and narrative
analysis. Souvik's research examines their relationship to canonical
ideas of narrative and also how video games inform and challenge
current conceptions of technicity, identity and culture, in general.
His current interests involve the analysis of paratexts of video
games, the concept of time in video games and the treatment of
diversity and the margins in video games. Besides game studies, his
other interests are (the) digital humanities and early modern

Christopher Patterson (US)
Christopher B. Patterson (Ph.D., U of Washington) is an Assistant
Professor in the Social Justice Institute at the University of British
Columbia, where he researches transpacific discourses of literature,
video games, and new media through the lens of empire studies, Asian
American studies, and queer theory. He is the author of Transitive
Cultures: Anglophone Literature of the Transpacific (Rutgers
University Press, 2018), and Open World Empire: Race, Erotics, and the
Global Rise of Video Games (NYU Press, 2020). His articles have
appeared in Cultural Studies, American Quarterly, Games and Culture,
M.E.L.U.S. (Multi-ethnic Literatures of the United States) and other
venues. He writes fiction under his alter ego, Kawika Guillermo, and
his stories have appeared in The Cimarron Review, Feminist Studies,
The Hawai’i Pacific Review, and other magazines. His debut novel,
Stamped: an anti-travel novel (Westphalia Press, 2018), was a Finalist
in Literary Fiction for American Book Fest, and won the 2020
Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for Fiction. His
upcoming queer speculative novel, All Flowers Bloom, is forthcoming
from Westphalia Press in March 2020. As an organizer and public
scholar, Chris founded the podcast New Books in Asian American Studies
where he is a current co-host, and serves as the Prose Editor for
decomP Magazine.

Phillip Penix-Tadsen (US)
Phillip Penix-Tadsen is a specialist in contemporary Latin American
cultural studies and regional game studies, focusing on the
intersections between politics, economics, digital media and visual
culture throughout Latin America today. He earned a Ph.D. from
Columbia University and is Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin
American Studies at the University of Delaware, where he regularly
teaches courses on Latin American cultural studies and game studies.
Penix-Tadsen is the author of Cultural Code: Video Games and Latin
America (MIT Press, 2016) and editor of the anthology Video Games and
the Global South (ETC Press, 2019). He has published work in journals
including Feminist Media Histories, Letras Hispanas and Latin American
Research Review.

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