Call For Articles – Game Studies Special Issue: “Queerness and Video Games: New Critical Perspectives on LGBTQ Issues, Sexuality, Games, and Play”

by Guest Editors – Ruberg & PhillipsThe intersection of LGBT issues, queerness, and video games represents a space of great turmoil and great potential. Video games, the games industry, and games culture have long struggled with discrimination and marginalization. In recent years, large-scale online harassment campaigns have made it especially difficult for those who do not fit the image of the traditional “gamer” to express their ideas through games. Yet LGBTQ game-makers — along with women, people of color, and many others — are establishing their place in the medium. At the same time, video games offer more than the opportunity to represent LGBTQ people. Games also share a common ethos with queerness, which is a way of approaching the world as well as a name for LGBTQ identities, as queer studies has long argued. Both games and queerness push us to live life otherwise, to explore alternative ways of being, and to challenge the status quo by creating opportunities for play.

This is a moment of explosive growth for queer video games and the exploration of LGBTQ issues in games. The academic paradigm of queer game studies, which brings together the established fields of queer studies and game studies, represents a fast-emerging area of scholarly growth. At the same time, over the last five years, a veritable wave of video games developed by LGBTQ game designers making work that explicitly explores queer experiences has pushed the medium in important new directions. While volumes like Queer Game Studies, Gaming Representation, and Rated M for Mature and monographs like Gaming at the Edge are establishing a body of scholarship, events like the Queerness and Games Conference and the GaymerX convention are building community around LGBTQ issues and video games. Additional voices from a wide variety of disciplines are joining the dialogue regularly. At this moment of national and international political upheaval, there has never been a more important time to approach video games, the defining medium of the 21st century, through queerness, queer analysis, and queer politics.

This special issue of Game Studies seeks to explore new critical perspectives on queerness and video games, building from existing queer game studies work and broadening the current scope of the paradigm by inviting intersectional voices, highlighting underrepresented LGBTQ identities, and challenging those who study video games to make explicit the political implications of their work. The interplays, overlaps, and points of tension between video games and queerness are vast and myriad. Here, we aim to push into new corners of this work, moving beyond the simple and often instrumentalized call to increase LGBTQ representation. Instead, we challenge our fellow queer game studies scholars, as well as those who are new to this area, to explore what it means to critique, play, build, protest, and feel in ways that are queer.

Possible topics for contributions include:

  • Intersectional perspectives on LGBTQ issues and queerness in video games. For instance, how can games and play be understood through queer of color theory? What is the relationship between disability studies and queerness in video games? How do socioeconomics, nationality, religion, etc. in games intersect with queer issues?
  • LGBTQ identities and experiences currently underrepresented in queer game studies scholarship, such as topics related to asexuality, bisexuality, transgender and genderqueer subjects, as well as non-normative desires (e.g. kink) and relationship styles (e.g. polyamory).
  • Queerness in video games beyond representation. What might it mean to play games queerly, to design games queerly, to interpret games queerly? What is the value of moving conversations around queerness in video games beyond the push for increased representation of LGBTQ characters and romances? How can we use queerness as a way to understand the technical elements of video games that are themselves underrepresented in existing scholarship, such as engines, code, and interfaces.
  • Queer politics and social justice in/through video games and games culture. What are queer games, game-makers, game scholars, and players working toward in the present political climate? What are the powers and the pitfalls of creating and studying queer video games today, amidst social upheaval and reactionary vitriol in North America, Europe, and beyond?
  • The role of affect in queer experiences of video games. Can a game make a player feel queerly? What is the place of empathy in games that address LGBTQ perspectives and is empathy in queer games promising or problematic? What role does emotional labor play in queer games and/or the production of games more broadly, and what implications does that have for LGBTQ subjects?
  • Interactions between industry, mainstream reception, and video games that engage with LGBTQ issues. What responsibility do queer game-makers or queer game studies scholars have to making video games “better.” How can we reconcile critiques of “queer-baiting” with the desire for diverse representations?

The special issue editors welcome submissions from scholars from a variety of backgrounds, including those from game studies, queer studies, science and technology studies, cultural studies, and beyond. We hope to hear from authors who are new to the work of queer game studies, as well as those who have already contributed scholarship in this area.

To submit, please send full articles of 6500 – 8,000 words in length to submit@gamestudies.org by December 31, 2017. Please follow the Game Studies Style Guide and submission instructions to be found on the Game Studies website, with this exception: for organizing your references in-text and your list of “References” follow APA. Please also make a separate “Ludography” for games referenced. Place it after References. Use only endnotes, not footnotes — see the Game Studies style guide for how to format these and for the mandatory checklist, which you need to include with your submission.
All submissions will undergo peer review. Publication of the issue is expected in Fall 2018. Please feel free to contact the Guest Editors, Bonnie Ruberg and Amanda Phillips (article content), or Game Studies Managing Editor Jessica Enevold (all other journal questions) with inquiries.


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