So Gamergate is two months old or so now. If that term doesn't mean anything to you, you're probably better off; if you're really curious, The last I checked, Rational Wiki had a version of events that I endorse, and the site I'm a part of, First Person Scholar, has run some pieces on it that I endorse 100%. Personally, I haven't been directly involved with many self-identified Gamergaters like some of my friends and colleagues because--go figure--they aren't really that interested in seeking out male academics, for the most part.
One of the branches of Gamergate that has struck closer to home, however, is one that's decided to take on DiGRA--that's the Digital Games Research Association, whose mission statement is almost ridiculous innocuous: "It encourages high-quality research on games, and promotes collaboration and dissemination of work by its members." What DiGRA did to get into the crossfires is immensely frustrating--at a roundtable panel during the last annual meeting, its members advocated encouraging developers to devote more attention to gender and diversity. That's it. That's the smoking gun. The transcript for the talk was published, and you can probably find it online, albeit perhaps not in its original form. For that, everyone at the talk was accused of being part of a radical feminist, communist(!) agenda to taint game development, and thus could be subject to any sort of accusation a gamergater could muster.
To the gamergaters who claim this is still about ethics in videogame journalism--well, maybe it is for you. But don't believe that it is that way for everyone else in your group. There are some who believe that the purpose of gamergate is to strike back at a feminism they find frightening, and as long as you permit them in your group, they're going to keep pursuing that goal in your name.
That, though, isn't what I want to talk about. Instead, let's talk about rhetoric. One of the rhetorical strategies of the gamergaters who are attacking DiGRA--calling, alternatively, for all the members of its board associated with the talk to be forced down, or for DiGRA itself to be "razed to the ground"--is to declare that these female academics(and yes, as far I can tell, anyone attacking DiGRA is attacking just women in DiGRA) as outsiders, forcing feminism on videogames they know nothing about. What I want to talk about, frankly, is what a load of shit that is. I don't know most of the people on DiGRA personally. But I do know they are excellent scholars, and I'm proud to work in a discipline that has them in it. So here's some of my favorite scholarship by female academics who are, or have been, a part of DiGRA.
If anyone wants to be taken off this list, let me know. I'm not listing anything that's not available online, but I absolutely understand if, under current conditions, some would prefer not to have a spotlight on them. Most of the links will require either a credit card or a university account to access, which admittedly, isn't ideal, given the price of academic journals. If only someone was advocating for a reconsideration of how academic publishing works...
Mia Consalvo. I don't think I can overstate the influence Consalvo has had on me as a game scholar. Her work in her book Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames introduced me to the concept of paratext, and gaming capital, both of which have been paramount in my own research. I don't think it's hyperbole to say that dissertation chapter on the paratext of the instruction manual wouldn't exist if it hadn't been for the inspiration of her example. Now, that book alone is enough to make her a game scholar MVP as far as I'm concerned, But I also want to highlight her work in co-editing the book Sports Videogames (with Mitgutssch and Stein), which is the first collection of essays on a genre of videogames that typically get very short shrift from scholars despite their popularity; her study of game culture via the walkthroughs written for Zelda 64 (a paper from 2003--not many game scholars can claim such a wide set of activity)' and yes, her work on gender in game culture ("Dwarf acts like a lady: The importance of gender roles in understanding gender switching and player behavior" = best paper title ever?).
Now, Consalvo is the one whose work I'm most familiar with. If there's any comparative brevity in the descriptions of the others, it's because of my failings, not theirs.
Shira Chess. Chess, too, has done some work on gender in games--for another candidate for best title, there's "Youthful White Male Industry Seeks ' Fun'-Loving Middle-Aged Women for Video Games," in Steiner, Carter, and McLaughlin's The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender. Her piece "Playing the bad guy: Grand Theft Auto in the Panopoticon" in Garrelts' Digital Gameplay: essays on the Nexus of Game of Game and Gamer is an older piece (2005), but all the more noteable for that--it's the earliest piece I can think of for academic articles that consider "playing bad" (like breaking bad, but with more reloading) in videogames. And for my personal interests, I'm looking forward to checking out her piece on the subject position of women players in the Ravenhearst trilogy of gothic videogames when I get a chance.
T. L. Taylor. Taylor's best known--and rightfully so--for her work on e-sports. Raising The Stakes is a must-read for any scholar who wants to become familiar with the field. She also co-wrote Ethnography and Virtual Worlds with Boellstorff, Nardi and Pearce (and, hopefully, a review of it will be up on FPS some time soon). I'll admit, I'm not a big fan of sociological approaches to games in general, but I think if there's a right way to do it, it's the ethnographic approach that emphasizes working with an existing community. And this is a great introductory volume on how to do it right. They're both excellent works on player culture.
Florence Chee. A large subset of Chee's work is on South Korean game culture; my knowledge of this field is absolutely minimal, but given South Korea's significance in global gaming cultures, it's worth knowing. One example of her work in this area is, with Jin and Kim, "Transformative mobile game culture: Sociocultural analysis of Korean mobile gaming in the era of smartphones." As someone who has spent entirely too much time on Marvel Puzzle Quest--I swear, the alliances in this so-called "casual" game have taken their notes straight from WoW raiding parties--I can attest how gaming culture can go mobile.
Ashley Brown. I've had the privilege of working with Brown personally. Well, personally via the digital; she wrote a piece for FPS on her research into erotic role play in games. Videogames have a tendency to be, well, a tease--a lot of them exaggerate physical sexuality, but any further desires need to be negotiated by the players. Brown's doing good work to consider how that unfolds. She's also got a chapter in the upcoming Game Love: Essays on Play and Affection by Enevold and MacCallum-Stewart, and you can bet that's on my pre-order list.
Tanya Kryzwinska. Kzyzwinksa is another scholar who's been extremely influential on my own work. Tomb Raiders and Space Invaders: Video Games in the 21st Century, written with Geoff King, was one of the first full-length books of game studies I ever read, and a lot of it--especially the chapter on realism, spectacle, and sensation--has sunk in deep. Likewise, the anthology she edited with Barry Atkins, Videogame/Player/Text, was extremely important to me just by virtue of it being a collection of people studying videogames and players from a background that reminded me, as an English major, of my own--Atkins' essay on Prince of Persia and Bittanti's on SimCity I remember as being particular stand-outs. More recently, and speaking again of sex, her essay "The Strange Case of the Misappearance of Sex in Videogames" is my go-to on the subject. And just two weeks ago, I was editing my own essay on the gothic in videogames that referred to her recent "Digital Games and the American Gothic: Investigating Gothic Game Grammar," in which she looks at Alan Wake and the Secret World MMO.
I could go on for ages, but I'll limit myself to one more:
Esther MacCallum-Stewart. MacCullum-Stewart (in retrospect, I should have limited my last to someone whose name was faster to type) is, as mentioned earlier, the editor for the upcoming essay on play and affection in games. She also (alongside Krywinska and Justin Parsler) co-edited a book of essays on the Lord of the Rings Online called Ringbearers, which, thanks to the existence of a grad course offered at UW I've never actually taken, I've read cover to cover. (I'm particularly fond of
Frans Mäyrä's essay on art-evil in the collection). And while I sadly can only find the slides for the talk online, judging purely by title and visual aid, I can only imagine how great it would have been to hear her talk "Sex, Love, Dwarves, Bacon" (best title candidate the third? The Best titles probably have "dwarf" in them, is what we're learning.).
This is work that has made game studies better. And I'm glad to be part of a group that includes these people as members.
Cheating. Gothic Games. E-sports. The Panopticon. South Korea. Virtual Ethnography. Sex. Gender. The research here spans a very wide gamut. This is NOT the output of narrow-minded people blindly pursuing a single agenda without any heed to facts or argument. For that, I think, you'd have to look for a different group entirely.