Speaker introduction by Brian Lennon, Director, Digital Culture and Media Initiative
March 19, 2015
Mann Assembly Room, Paterno Library
It is my pleasure to welcome Adrienne Shaw to Penn State as a guest of the Digital Culture and Media Initiative.
Adrienne Shaw is an assistant professor in the Department of Media Studies and Production at Temple University and a faculty member in Temple’s doctoral program in Media and Communications. Her primary areas of interest are video games, gaming culture, the politics of representation, and qualitative audience research. Her research has been published in Games and Culture, New Media Studies, and Critical Studies in Media and Communication, among other journals, and she is the author of several book chapters on game studies. Her book Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture, on which her talk today is based, was published in January 2015 by the University of Minnesota Press.
Some of you know that this is a heady time for video game studies. I refer not only to greater academic and general critical legitimation and acceptance of game studies as a field of inquiry. I refer also to the recent symbolically and often literally violent reactions, within some game enthusiast communities, to some of the both characteristic and innovative arguments and analytic perspectives of cultural studies, as video game studies adopts them. Certainly, it can be easy for some of us to take those perspectives for granted. And if, like me, you drifted away from game studies in disappointment by the crude neo-formalism and neo-structuralism of the work that dominated the field in the late 1990s, then you might be surprised to discover that game studies is an extraordinarily and, for lack of a better word, inspiringly turbulent site of social struggle today.
There’s a presumption in such surprise, and in my choice of the word “inspiring,” that is problematic in itself, of course, and I find that Adrienne Shaw’s new book has helped me articulate just what’s problematic in that presumption. In Gaming at the Edge, Shaw points out that gaming communities in the United States have always been more diverse than some of us might expect, and that that fact, which Shaw explores and supports with field research, has real implications for the struggle for representation in both the production of video games and the game cultures that consume them. Shaw reminds us that in computational media as in other media forms, and in game cultures as in other subcultures, the representation of identity is a site of struggle, not of simple determination. Her conclusion in the book, which is that the game industry should pursue more diverse representation in games precisely because gamers tend not to simply, directly identify with their player avatars, while playing a game, is a both intellectually provocative and practically useful counterintuition, which I think is going to give Gaming at the Edge a long life.
Please join me in welcoming Adrienne Shaw.