Way back in October of 2015, the idea was born for a special "In Practice" section of Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies introducing Feminist Film and Media Studies (the discipline I was trained in) to Queer Game Studies (the emerging discipline I had been working with more recently). I would be shaping and organizing the section with the help of two scholars who helped found the Queerness and Games Conference at UC Berkeley in 2013: Bonnie ("Bo") Ruberg, and Christopher Goetz. Just this week, the issue featuring our section, "In Practice: Queerness and Games," came out online. For subscribers, issue 95 should be arriving in your mailbox within the next 1-2 weeks!
Working on this section has been an incredible learning opportunity that has helped me grow as a scholar, and to find a supportive community of collaborators. Bo and Chris generously helped draft and edit an introduction to the section, and Patricia White and Chip Badley at Camera Obscura were the shepherding editor and managing editor for the section respectively. Working with Patty again, years after she mentored me at Swarthmore College, was a particular privilege.
I hope this section will open the area of "queerness and games" to feminist and queer scholars across media studies, showing how the framework of queer game studies helps build and complicate video game theory, just as feminist film studies and feminist film theory has shaped so much of film and media studies as we know it today. It features two excellent pieces from QGCon, as well as one interview highlighting queerness and games work outside the conference.
Bonnie Ruberg's interview with Adrienne Shaw, "Creating an Archive of LGBTQ Video Game Content," explores the methodological complexity of queer game studies through a conversation about the creation of the first scholarly database of queer content in video games, the LGBTQ Video Game Archive. Shaw's work exposes some uncomfortable truths about the history of video games, such as the lack of representation of the AIDS crisis in games of the 1980s and 90s. It also shows the resilience and resourcefulness of fans and scholars, whose attentiveness to even small queer moments produces a kind of queer game studies in practice.
Dietrich Squinkifer's "Conferences, Conventions, and Coffee" shows how the author's interactive play Coffee: A Misunderstanding follows feminist film theorists' strategies of interrogating the symbolic work done by cinema to construct and maintain binary gender and heteronormativity, applying these interrogations to the big-budget "AAA" games industry and the format of the fan convention. As Coffee is typically performed at conventions, it also provides metacommentary on the events at which it appears. I can confirm that Coffee radically reshaped my experience of my own gender and sexuality in relation to others at QGCon 2014, in the best of ways!
Finally, Claudia Lo's "Everything is Wiped Away: Temporality in Queers in Love at the End of the World" looks at Anna Anthropy's 2014 Twine game Queers in Love at the End of the World through the lens of José Esteban Muñoz's call toward queer futurity and the yearning to be lost. Be careful if you click on the link above; Queers in Love is a real tearjerker. Lo perfectly captures the ways in which the game's innovatively brief temporal mechanics represent a queer approach to game design.
Though the section is made up of short pieces, it represents two years of work for me and all the contributors. If you read it, please let me know what you think! This is just the beginning for queer game studies, so let's start a conversation about the possible interaction of feminist film and media studies and queer approaches to video games. I also invite you to use your background in feminist film and media studies to bring a new voice to the queer game studies field, fandom, and movement, through research, analysis, or game design! I can't wait to see more from my colleagues in this area. Happy reading!