The 5 Titles series highlights books, music, and films in the library’s collection, featuring topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and/or highlighting authors’ work from diverse backgrounds. Each post is intended to briefly sample titles rather than provide a comprehensive topic overview. This month the five titles have been selected by Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Humanities and Social Sciences Department Head and Librarian for Literature, and Haley Walton, Librarian for Education and Open Scholarship. Video games are among the most influential media of the twenty-first century: a multi-billion-dollar global industry that weaves playable stories of otherworldly adventure, pulse-pumping action, and sweeping emotional depth into our daily lives through our computers, consoles, and phones. From Candy Crush to The Last of Us, games can appeal to players from any age group or socio-cultural background, yet the stereotype of the cisgender, white male “gamer” persists. This month’s five titles reinforce that gaming is and has always been for everyone by exploring how race, gender, queerness, and disability in gaming and game development impact how we, the players, see ourselves and our societies.
Cooperative Gaming: Diversity in the Games Industry and How to Cultivate Inclusion by Alyna M. Cole and Jessica Zammit. Brief, readable, and impactful, this book sets the stage for diversity issues in games and the game industry using survey data collected by the International Game Developers Association, and the authors’ not-for-profit organization Queerly Represent Me. In a culture that can be hostile toward mere mentions of adding diverse characters and themes to video games, the authors address the challenges marginalized groups face trying to develop games that represent their experiences, to push back against abusive opposition to their inclusion in the business of gaming and play itself, and to offer their voices to ensure they are accurately portrayed in the games they love. The five chapters provide context and usable resources for cultivating inclusion in workplace culture, game development, and larger gaming-centric events. With many years of combined experience in the pitfalls and bright points of the game industry, Cole and Zammit call out the problems but also lay the groundwork for cultivating a more diverse future for games and gamers.
Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games edited by Jennifer Malkowski and Treaandrea M. Russworm. This scholarly collection of essays examines portrayals of race, gender, and sexuality in a wide range of video games spanning casual games, indie games, and mainstream AAA games. It is part of a more recent wave of scholarly criticism that examines issues of identity and representation in video games, moving away from past scholarship that focused on the relationship between narratology and ludology. The editors and contributors aim to look at how elements like images, sound, and plot can create a sense of identity for players and how this can be expressed through the code and software itself. The book also examines how games have been impacted by movements like #gamergate, #BlackLivesMatter, and #INeedDiverseGames. It is divided into three sections: Part One – Gender Bodies, Spaces; Part Two – Race, Identity, Nation; Part Three – Queerness, Play, Subversion. Readers of this book will better understand how video game players see themselves (or don’t see themselves) in their games.
Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming by Kishonna L. Gray. In this book, Kishonna L. Gray interrogates Blackness in gaming at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and (dis)ability. She uses theories and methods from many disciplines, such as feminism, critical race theory, media studies, and anthropology. She is particularly interested in how marginalized players interact with games and creates fan content. As she notes in the introduction, “given the continual valuing of whiteness and masculinity in digital spaces, it is necessary to explore the often unstable relationship that develops between the user and technology, highlighting institutional, communal, and individual barriers that impede full inclusion of marginalized users” (3). A particular highlight of this book is how she provides narratives and snippets of text messages and conversations gathered from group and individual interviews she has conducted over the last decade, providing real-life grounding to the theoretical points she makes in each chapter. Bonus: the book begins with a foreword by Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency.
The Queer Games Avant-Garde: How LBGTQ Game Makers are Reimagining the Medium of Video Games by Bonnie Ruberg. “Queer people are the avant-garde of video games because we’re willing to do things other people aren’t,” states Naomi Clark at the start of this exciting collection of essays by creators and gamers working on queering video games (e.g., creating games that reflect queer stories and culture). The eponymous movement is composed of queer experience-centric “‘indie’ games developed largely outside the traditional funding and publishing structures of the games industry” that “are scrappy and zine-like,” rather than the sleek AAA titles with teams of hundreds and millions of dollars behind them. While the big-budget game industry has been trying to include more diverse voices, it can still be considered a cautious approach. The gamemakers whose voices comprise this volume are producing games by, about, and for queer players to tell the stories they want to see right now—no waiting for the industry to catch up. Queer people have always been a part of video gaming; in Ruberg’s volume, over twenty creators share their essential progress toward queering video games.
Gaming Disability: Disability Perspectives on Contemporary Video Games, edited by Katie Ellis, Tama Leaver, and Mike Kent. A collaboration between scholars of disability and game studies, this newly released volume addresses the challenges and opportunities people with disability experience in video gaming culture and communities—and with representation in the games themselves. Developers, activists, and educators offer their perspectives in 19 chapters covering topics from the history of disabled character representation in video games, gaming with blindness, how scars affect characterization in Bioware’s sci-fi epic Mass Effect 2, and how playing a physical movement-based game like Pokémon Go forces us to confront the (in)accessibility of our urban environments. There is no question that people with disabilities are often excluded from games and game culture through interfaces that assume a normative body. This book emphasizes that “disabled gamers do not accept this exclusion and have become active agents of change.” The authors challenge us to explore the perspectives of people with disabilities and to create a more inclusive space inside games and the gaming community.