Games and Literary Theory Conference 2019
Videogames have grown into a global socio-cultural phenomenon and are now a primary concern of Literary and Cultural Studies as well as the Social Sciences. In a medium that sweeps across geographies (including virtual ones), however, the discourse usually privileges a certain section when it comes to the representation of identity. In a medium, where roleplaying and playing in character is of prime importance, such an ignoring of the marginal and the diverse is indeed problematic.
In one of the first books on the subject, Adrienne Shaw says ‘Teaching classes on minority representation in games, I heard this refrain repeated yet again by my students. Video games are a niche medium; they are fantasy environments; and they are designed for a narrow market. Of course games are not diverse—so what? […] I realized that I recognized myself in my participants’ responses. After all, I too grew up playing a medium for which I was not the primary market and media in which only certain aspects of my identity were ever shown’ (Shaw 2015). Shaw’s concern is an urgent one and recent events related to racism, sexism and other kinds of discrimination in the videogame industry and in the content of the games, highlights the importance of academic dialogues around gaming ‘at the margins’, as it were.
These concerns, of course, echo much older debates on diversity and difference in Literary and Cultural Studies. Identity and indeed, even the body, are constructs in the Foucauldian framework of biopower and beyond the actual control of individuals. Thinkers such as Judith Butler, Julia Kristeva and bell hooks point out how the the body is marginalised based on gender, race and class. Similarly, the constructedness of the ‘Orient’ and the ‘Oriental’ in colonial discourse as shown by Edward Said and also how the colonial system also renders certain groups of people ‘subaltern’ and how this affects the discourse of diversity as Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak and Homi Bhabha make evident. Often, the discourse of diversity and the margins pervades games as well although the connection is not often made evident in the older and more traditional disciplines.
Recent games scholarship has started addressing issues of diversity in games through the new Diversity Group that is now part of the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA), books on gender, race and colonialism (Shaw 2015; Murray 2018; Mukherjee 2017) as well as edited journal issues and panel discussions. As crucial to discussions of both games and literary theory, these issues form the main theme of this year’s Games and Literary Theory Conference, being held in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India.
We welcome papers on but not restricted to the following topics:
- Representations of diverse games in literature.
- Remediating marginality: from non-canonical literature to games.
- Studying games with literary theory: from the center to the margins.
- Marginalized discourses of gaming culture.
- Peripheral aesthetics and central gameplay: interplay between locally-inspired game content and gameplay conventions.
- Digital and non-digital games as tools to resist inequality and erasure.
- Representations of gender, queerness, race, class and caste in games vis a vis literature.
- Applying concepts of colonization, migration, and diasporas in understanding game spaces.
- The connection between violence in gaming and White, cis-heteropatriarchal gender norms.
- The language of the “digital frontier” in gaming and tech cultures
- Diversity practices and games studies.
- Empathy games that engage with racism and the ‘refugee’ experience.
- Decolonizing struggles in the gaming industry around labour and money
- Digital Humanities from the margins vis a vis gamer culture in Global North vs. the Global South.