BCMCR Research Seminar – Game Cultures: Games, Alternativity and Canon
1600-1730 Wednesday 21 October 2020
Online event: *link to be posted on Eventbrite one hour before the event.
Free registration on Eventbrite on this link
Emma Fraser (University of Lancaster) Digital Alternatives – Video Games, Queerness, and Ruins
In recent years, emerging scholarship on video games has increasingly focused on alternative (that is, non-mainstream, diverse, and under-researched) cultures of game design, gameplay, and gamer identity. Key examples over just the last year include Ruberg’s Queer Games Avant-Garde; Gray and Leonard’s edited volume Woke Gaming; Chess’ Play Like Feminist, and Gray’s Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming. Of course, players have always been diverse, and (as Ruberg asserts), video games have always been Queer.
This paper presents a series of provocations contrasting The Last of Us 2 (a mainstream game with ostensibly ‘Queer’ characters, set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of the USA), with Queer-and-ruinous indie games, using the theme of the ruin to consider the wider theme of alternavity. Drawing on Ruberg, Gray, Chess, and others, these provocations will examine the ways in which digital video games might reveal alternative frameworks or imaginaries of life through playful spaces and ruinous landscapes. In particular, through an affinity between Queer gaming cultures and the radical open-ness of ruinality, this paper argues that both mainstream and indie games make use of the digital medium to offer up sites of resistance and alternative modes of play.
Tobias Unterhuber (Leopold-Franzens University Innsbruck) In Search of the [insert famous movie/book] of video games? – The (im)possibility of canonizing video games
Does a canon of video games exist? Do we need a canon of video games? Can the video game discourse even produce a canon? And if it can, who is producing it? What is the role of game studies in this process?
The process of canonization is complex and differs from media to media. With a comparative perspective on literature and film, the talk will focus on the underlying mechanisms of canon formation in popular culture. Concepts like authorship, auteurship, prestige games and lists are, if not part of a canonization process at least part of a process of cultural and artistic recognition of the medium.
The question stands if video games even have the institutionalized cultural power to produce its own canon or if the video game discourse with its contradicting desires for (technical) progress and the recurrence of the familiar cannot guarantee a long-term stabilizing structure like a canon.
Finally, our own role, as game studies researcher, in these processes should be evaluated. Does an academic canon exist or are game studies as an interdisciplinary field with an underlying cultural studies paradigm not able and/or not willing to stabilize the video game discourse?
About the speakers:
Dr. Emma Fraser is a lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Lancaster University. Emma’s work considers modern ruins and digital media in relation to urban experience, the visual image, and the writings of Walter Benjamin. She also writes about games and play across sociology, geography, game studies and media and cultural theory.
Dr. Tobias Unterhuber studied modern German literature, comparative literature and study of religion at LMU Munich and at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2018, he earned his PhD with his thesis on the works of Swiss author Christian Kracht. He is a post-doc for literature and media studies at the Leopold-Franzens University Innsbruck. In addition to pop literature, literary theory, discourse analysis, literature & economics and gender studies, his research interests include video game research in the field of cultural studies. He is an editor of the game studies journal PAIDIA.