Games Against the Machine: Diversifying Resistance - 2nd DiGRA Diversity Workshop

Turin, Italy (24.7.2018), 16. April 2018.

CALL FOR PAPERS

The Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) Diversity team are delighted to announce we are now accepting extended abstracts for paper presentations at our 2nd DiGRA diversity workshop, taking place on the 24th July at the DiGRA 2018 conference in Turin, Italy. Please find the details of the workshop below.

The theme this year is:

Games Against the Machine: Diversifying Resistance

Participation

Participation in the workshop is open to all DiGRA participants, regardless of acceptance to the workshop.  If you plan to attend the workshop as a participant (not a presenter), please register by July 4th by sending an email to the workshop organisers at digradiversityworkshop@gmail.com.

Introduction

In the wake of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ and more recently the #metoo social movements, previously marginalised and silenced groups have found a new channel for their voices to be heard and to lead action for resisting societal injustices. These movements in turn have led to an increasing awareness of these issues within contemporary societies and, perhaps, greater movements towards making changes to this (often institutionalised) discrimination and harassment.

Games have similarly over the last few years begun to reflect the concerns about these issues, including within titles coming from experimental, independent, and Triple A development. After the public attention of the GamerGate controversy, we are seeing greater promotion of games portraying new and diverse perspectives are rising. Being championed by the Independent (‘Indie’) developer scene, games are seeing a turn away from the ‘war’ and towards themes around relationships, romance, and intimacy. The popularity of Life is Strange, Genital Jousting, How Do You Do it?, Hatoful Boyfriend, Gone Home, Queers At The End Of The World, and Stardew Valley, means that the representation of gender and sexuality within games appears at some levels to be changing. However, from a production-development perspective there are still too few diverse viewpoints, leaving some to question the relationship between exclusions in production and the consequent lack of representations of women, people of colour, and other marginalized groups in games, and others to unequivocally state that “the video games industry isn’t yet ready for its #MeToo moment”.

Some games, such as South Park: The Stick of Truth have highlighted issues of race and societal inequality in the most direct and explicit manner. While many games now allow players to build an avatar from any colour in the RGB spectrum, it very consciously channels race and racial issues when letting the player design their avatar. The race of the avatar selected by the player is on a sliding scale, and directly proportional to the challenge of the game. For the easiest experience, the player can choose to play as a white character, though for the most difficult challenge, a player must choose a black avatar. Although this particular game is satirical, nonetheless it’s representation of the challenge faced by different races in the game is a reflection of the analogous challenges faced by different races within contemporary societies.

There is, however, still much work to be done. The recently released Kingdom Come: Deliverance was criticised on release for its lack of racial diversity, where the game’s monoethnicity was defended by the development director on the basis that it was historically accurate. Although this perspective was widely decried by medieval historians as at best misguided and at worst utterly false, it is still troubling that diverse representations in games appear to be the exception, not the norm, with the exclusion often justified through specious logic. Although representations such as these are extremely concerning, from a reception perspective now more than ever people are starting to question – and resist – the representations seen in games on the basis of their diversity (or lack thereof), and are holding the industry accountable for the content they espouse.

This DiGRA Diversity Workshop will explore these aspects of diversity and resistance, from the perspective of game production, representation, and critical reception, and the interplay between these elements.

Call for Proposals

We welcome proposals for presentations that investigate questions and topics such as, but not limited to:

Production and Representation

-   What is the relationship between production and representation, work and aesthetics? How do we theorise the relationship between between production culture / workforce demographics and what games / representations are produced?
  
-   What diverse representations and new perspectives are being seen in games? How do these resist or differ from those seen previously?
  
-   How are personal/individual stories in games a form of resistance?
  
-   How do games that portray visions of possible futures demonstrate resistance of the issues of the present?
  
-   Representations of race and gender in ‘historical’ games: how does the historical setting affect the diversity of avatars and Non-Player Characters (NPCs)?
  
-   How far are alternative history games diverse and how far do they resist / glorify hegemonic discourse?
  
-   How do games reflect white, western narratives in histories that involve people of colour,  such as colonialism?
  
-   How are/can games developers make a stronger move towards more inclusive representations in games? What are they doing well, and what more can be done?

Critical Reflection and Reception

-   What responsibility do players, journalists, people in the public eye (such as PewdiePie) and academics have in speaking out on issues of diversity and inclusion? How do they positively or negatively affect the discourses of diversity?
  
-   What explains the widespread appeal of empire-building games? How do players the world over - including those from formerly colonised countries - describe their play experience?
  
-   To what extent is the current political climate increasing tensions amongst developers, players and the media in terms of how (non-)diversity in games is represented and received? How much have games merely reflected what was considered acceptable within societies?
  
-   How do/can academia resist non-diversity at these different levels: what is working and what else can be done?

Submissions

Please send your extended abstract of 1000 words (excluding references) to Mahli-Ann Butt at digradiversityworkshop@gmail.com by April 16, 2017 at 17:00 CET (9:00 PST).

Please note this is an open paper format and you are not required to use the DiGRA template for extended abstracts. Abstracts will be subject to peer review by the DiGRA diversity team.

Notifications of acceptance will be sent to participants on May 14th. Camera ready abstracts for the workshop are expected by June 18th.

Important Dates

Extended Abstract Deadline: April 16th, 2017 17:00 CET (9:00 PST).
Notice of Acceptance: May 14th
Camera Ready Abstracts: June 18th
Workshop Date: 24th July (Afternoon)

Best Wishes,

Sian Beavers

(on behalf of the Diversity Team)

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Sian Beavers
PhD Candidate
Institute of Educational Technology
The Open University, Jennie Lee Building, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA
Email: sian.beavers@open.ac.uk
Twitter: @sianbeavers