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  • Call for Papers: “The Post-Gamer Turn” Edited Collection

    Listen to the editors talk about ‘The Post-Gamer Turn‘ theme on this special episode of Keywords in Play: https://criticaldistance.podbean.com/e/keywords-in-play-episode-24-mahli-ann-butt-amanda-cote-emil-lunedal-hammar-and-cody-mejeur/

    Contact email: postgamerturn@gmail.com

    Book Editors

    • Mahli-Ann Butt [University of Sydney]
    • Amanda Cote [University of Oregon]
    • Emil Lundedal Hammar [University of Tampere & University of Tromsø]
    • Cody Mejeur [University at Buffalo]

    Project Synopsis

    In August 2014, faced with the beginning stages of the online harassment campaign that would come to be known as Gamergate, games journalist Leigh Alexander controversially declared, “’Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over.” With this claim, Alexander highlighted how the video game industry and game culture have historically prioritized “Gamers,”* an imagined audience assumed to be young, straight, primarily white or East Asian, cisgender boys and men, at the expense of other players. Although early game systems were targeted towards families, following the 1983 North American Video Game Crash – also known as the Atari Shock in Japan – the industry quickly solidified around a narrow market, targeting “Gamers” via magazines, advertising, hypersexualized video game content, and genres and themes that emerge from traditional “boy culture” (Kirkpatrick, 2012; Graner Ray, 2004; Kiesler, Sproull and Eccles, 1985; Kocurek, 2015; Newman, 2017). While diverse players have always engaged with games regardless, these efforts to court young men made it easier for individuals who fit the imagined “Gamer” identity to enter game spaces and communities while others struggled to feel a sense of belonging or inclusion (Shaw, 2012; Harvey, 2022).

    Contrary to the imagined default “Gamer,” a wealth of research over the past two decades demonstrates how player demographics are much more diverse. Although much of the furor around Gamergate focused on women and their perceived location as gaming “outsiders,” approximately half of all players are female, a statistic that is comparable across many different countries and regions, such as Australia and Europe where 47% of players are female (ESA, 2020, p. 5; Brand & Todhunter, 2016, p. 4; ISFE 2021, p. 9). Women over the age of 18 represent a far greater portion, at 37% of the game playing population, than boys aged 17 or younger who only count as 13% (ESA, 2016, p. 3). Players are also diverse across other identities and combinations thereof; U.S.-based research, for instance, reveals that individuals of all racial backgrounds are equally likely to play video games (Duggan, 2015) and that 10% of game audiences are LGBT+ (Henderson, 2020). Researchers, industry members, and “Gamers” often overlook these players, however, as they defend themselves against exclusion and harassment by playing solo or in enclaved communities, or by hiding distinguishing identity characteristics (Cote, 2020; Gray, 2020). Evidently, the lack of diversity frequently attested in scholarship on representation in games is less a problem concerning player numbers than a concern with how marginalized players continue to experience precarity.

    Researchers have increasingly recognized the need for work that pushes back against “the constructed past of video game culture’s insularity, maleness, and youthfulness” (Shaw, 2010, p. 408). Rethinking who counts as a “Gamer” or not, as well as what counts as a “real” game (Consalvo & Paul, 2019), matters to how we define the boundaries, subjects, and relevant texts of game studies as a field; expanding and challenging previously set boundaries or assumptions allows us to avoid disciplinary rigidity and too narrow a scope (Phillips, 2020). Moreover, workers in the games industry have proceeded from advocating for diversity and facing public harassment by reactionary consumers towards collectively organizing for better work conditions in ways that go against “Gamer” hegemony. Reconsidering the significance of “Gamer” and what has come before or could come after it also contributes to popular culture and public discourse where the term continues to hold power. 

    This edited collection engages with the shifting understanding of “Gamers”/gamers/players in game culture, the games industry, and game studies – which Butt refers to as “the post-Gamer turn” (2022, p. 51) – to address the ongoing issues inherent in the use of a limited identity category. The post-Gamer turn does not signal the end of the “Gamer” identity but denotes a way of recognizing its promises as a sustained fantasy with real power and implications for who plays games and how. Engaging with the limits of the “Gamer” identity and questioning the boundaries of representation in games does not settle, solve, or supersede the concept of a “Gamer,” but instead reveals evolving relations between players and the games they play. Doing this work now is not only important as a matter of theoretical rigor, but also as a means for making game studies a more inclusive and vibrant scholarly community. Recognizing diverse perspectives on games, “Gamers”/gamers/players, and game studies is of urgent practical and political necessity. It has been nearly a decade since the events of Gamergate, where the tensions between “Gamers” and players were violently, publicly highlighted, and this edited collection asks what has changed in games and game studies with regard to conceptualizing players/gamers/“Gamers,” as well as where further change is needed.

    * As per scholars like Vossen (2018), Cote (2020), and Butt (2022), this CFP distinguishes between players, gamers (lower case, without quotes), and “Gamers” (upper-case, in quotes): the first denoting the practice and anyone who plays games, the second denoting identification and anyone who identifies as a gamer, and the latter denoting the marketed representation of a hegemonic “Gamer.” These distinctions help to detangle the stereotype from people’s lived experiences in order to better highlight how the hegemonic “Gamer” identity critically fails to represent all players and gamers.

    We invite submissions on a range of topics including but not limited to: 

    • Ongoing challenges or changes in the “Gamer”/gamer/player relationship
    • Tensions between gaming counterpublics and hegemonic industry publics
    • Legacies and futures of the “Gamer” identity
    • Rethinking who or what counts in game definitions
    • The commodified “Gamer” identity at work in the industry
    • Alternative production strategies and approaches
    • Player community formation, regulation, contestation and sub/cultural capital
    • Entanglements of “player” and “non-player” practices
    • Intersectional identities, processes of identification, and embodied precarity
    • In-game representation, reception, and affect in gameplay
    • Social media and memes about “Gamers”
    • Challenging game studies’ disciplinary formation and field imaginary
    • Alternative/experimental approaches to researching, teaching, and playing games
    • Non-canonical research texts, e.g. paratexts, analogue, hybrid, mobile, casual games
    • Convergence media, technology, and cultures in the past and/or futures of play
    • The “becoming-environmental” threat of online harassment as related to games 
    • Segments of “Gamers” with the global rise of fascism and reactionary elements 
    • Difficulties of diversity work in game studies/industry related to “Gamer” identities
    • Transgressive play and non-hardcore/non-AAA gaming as resistance
    • The future of the “Gamer” in a world of climate change and societal crisis

    We list these potential topics as a way to inspire and welcome all submissions that highlight the longstanding contributions from feminist game studies and/or any work that challenges the dominant canonization of game studies as a discipline. We intend to publish the collection in English with an academic press, but wish to explicitly encourage submissions from culturally and linguistically diverse authors who may be non-academics, students, early career researchers, or established academics in any field.

    Workshop

    As part of the edited collection’s development, accepted contributors will be invited to present their chapters at a hybrid workshop hosted by the University of Sydney Games and Play Lab. This collaborative workshop will allow authors to share in-progress drafts and receive feedback from other contributors. 

    Tentative Timeline

    • 4 Dec (extended deadline), 2022: Abstracts Due (500-800 words)
    • Feb 2023: Abstract Acceptances
    • April/May 2023: Contributor Workshop
    • Aug 2023: Full Chapters Due (6000-7000 words)
    • Oct 2023: Reviewer Feedback Returned
    • Dec 2023: Revised Manuscript Due
    • Feb 2024: Final Edits Due
    • Aug 2024: Publication

    Submission Guidelines

    Please send chapter proposals to postgamerturn@gmail.com. We request authors to use APA referencing and to also provide a short biography along with the initial abstracts. The word count for proposals and manuscripts exclude references.

    References

    Alexander, L. (2014, August 28). ‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over. Game Developer. https://www.gamedeveloper.com/business/-gamers-don-t-have-to-be-your-audience-gamers-are-over- 

    Brand, J. E. & Todhunter, S. (2016). Digital Australia report. In Interactive Games & Entertainment Association. https://www.igea.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Digital-Australia-2016-DA16-Final.pdf 

    Butt, MA. (2022). Gaming Lifeworlds: Video games in Culture [PhD Dissertation, University of Sydney]. https://hdl.handle.net/2123/27979

    Consalvo, M., & Paul, C. A. (2019). Real games: What’s legitimate and what’s not in contemporary videogames. MIT Press.

    Cote, A. (2020). Gaming Sexism: gender and identity in the era of casual video games. New York University Press. 

    Duggan, M. (2015). Which Americans play video games and who identifies as a “gamer” . https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/12/15/who-plays-video-games-and-identifies-as-a-gamer/

    ESA. (2016). Essential facts about the computer and video game industry. https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/esa_ef_2016.pdf

    ESA. (2020). Essential facts about the computer and video game industry. https://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/2020-ESA_Essential_facts_070820_Final_lowres.pdf 

    Graner Ray, S. (2004). Gender inclusive game design: Expanding the market. Charles River Media.

    Gray, K. L. (2020). Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming. Louisiana State University Press.

    Harvey, A. (2022). Making the grade: Feminine lack, inclusion, and coping strategies in digital games higher education. New Media & Society, 24(9), pp. 1986–2002. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820986831

    Henderson, T. (2020, August 7). 10 Percent of Gamers are LGBTQ+ Nielsen Study Shows. Out Magazine. https://www.out.com/tech/2020/8/07/10-percent-gamers-are-lgbtq-nielsen-study-shows

    ISFE. (2021). 2021 Key Facts about the European Video Games Sector. In ISFE. https://www.isfe.eu/data-key-facts/key-facts-about-europe-s-video-games-sector/ 

    Kiesler, S., Sproull, L., & Eccles, J. S. (1985). Pool Halls, Chips, and War Games: Women in the Culture of Computing. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 9(4), 451–462. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1985.tb00895.x 

    Kirkpatrick, G. (2012). Constitutive tensions of gaming’s field: UK gaming magazines and the formation of gaming culture 1981-1995. Game Studies, 12(1). http://gamestudies.org/1201/articles/kirkpatrick 

    Kocurek, C. A. (2015). Coin-operated Americans: Rebooting boyhood at the video game arcade. University of Minnesota Press.

    Newman, M. Z. (2017). Atari age: the emergence of video games in America. MIT Press.

    Shaw, A. (2010). What Is Video Game Culture? Cultural Studies and Game Studies. Games and Culture, 5(4), 403–424. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412009360414

    Shaw, A. (2012). Do you identify as a gamer? Gender, race, sexuality, and gamer identity. New Media & Society, 14(1), 28–44. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444811410394 

    Vossen, E. (2018). On the Cultural Inaccessibility of Gaming: Invading, Creating, and Reclaiming the Cultural Clubhouse [University of Waterloo]. https://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/handle/10012/13649