MARCH 16, 2023 JNT Dialogue: Video Games and Narrative: How Virtual Worlds Move Us


Despite imagining complex virtual worlds that inspire a range of player identifications and affects, video games often continue to be analyzed as computational rather than narrative artifacts. As narratives, video games offer playable representations of our cultures, where we encounter real world fears, conflicts, and dreams in imaginary landscapes. Video games move us, as we move through them: they enable new relationships, structures of feeling, and political meanings. Join us for a conversation about the political and affective significance of dwelling in such virtual spaces with video game scholars Aubrey Anable and Soraya Murray. Taking on normative assumptions about video games and play cultures, the speakers will also discuss how they can be reclaimed for feminist and queer futures.

Reset: Politica e Videogiochi (2023)

A cura di Matteo Bittanti

Collana: Eterotopie
2023, 540 pp.
ISBN: 9788857595405

A special THANK YOU to Matteo Bittanti for including me in his anthology RESET, out now.

Reset esamina numerosi aspetti della complessa relazione tra la politica e i videogiochi – politica nei videogiochi, dei videogiochi, con i videogiochi – un tema che negli ultimi anni ha appassionato gli studiosi delle più disparate discipline. Se nel saggio L’opera d’arte nell’era della sua riproducibilità tecnica (1935-1936), Walter Benjamin rifletteva sul duplice, contraddittorio fenomeno della politicizzazione dell’arte e dell’estetizzazione della politica, in queste pagine ci si interroga sulla politicizzazione del videogioco e sulla ludicizzazione della politica, attraverso i contributi di studiosi internazionali che afferiscono a differenti campi disciplinari perché il videogame – come la politica – richiede una disamina multiprospettica. Reset è, a tutti gli effetti, il seguito di Game over. Critica della ragione videoludica (2020). Per rispondere alle numerose sollecitazioni dell’intenso dibattito innescato dal precedente lavoro e contestualizzare alcuni eventi straordinari del recente passato che hanno (purtroppo) confermato non solo le diagnosi, ma anche le previsioni degli autori, sono qui approfonditi temi pressanti, tra cui la relazione tra l’immaginario videoludico e le specifiche disposizioni politiche dei giocatori, le ideologie del divertimento elettronico e i loro effetti socio-culturali.


I’ll be a panelist in Braxton Soderman and Justin Keever’s Critical Videogame Theory Panel at SCMS in DENVER this April. Patrick Jagoda will also present, and here is my abstract:

An Autotheory of Critical Game Studies

The act of playing a video game is a highly individuated practice. Matters of politics, ethics, and theory are separate neither from the complex aesthetic image-making practices of video games, nor the idiosyncratic ways in which players engage them. Truly, some of the most intense experiences players have issue from their extended aesthetic engagements with games, and the deeply fraught political affects that emerge. Yet more often than not, games writing tends to presume a smooth, standardized expert engagement with a game as implicit to an authoritative analysis. But what opportunities arise as a result of a sustained, sometimes conflicted relation to a video game? Or unacceptable engagements? Or critical rejection?

In her testimonial to the nuances of black spectatorship, bell hooks has described an “oppositional looking” in which the friction between the subject and the observer opens up a space of possibility for counter-reading, agency and resistance to mainstream media. Art historian and visual studies scholar Joanne Morra has identified what she calls a “working-through” that is required for sitting with particular aesthetic objects of study. She describes repeated looking, thinking, failing, free association, sitting with, procrastination and other working practices as necessary processes for grasping what cultural objects mean. Likewise, Lauren Fournier has more recently engaged an expanded understanding of the autotheoretical impulse as feminist intervention, one that I argue may open up new possibilities for understanding video games as a visual culture form.

Fournier defines autotheory as a term that captures an “integration of theory and philosophy with autobiography, the body and other so-called personal and explicitly subjective modes…a self-conscious way of engaging with theory —as a discourse, frame, or mode of thinking and practice.” This presentation utilizes the critical feminist interventions of Morra and Fournier to consider the centrality of the self and theory (in tandem) as vital components of how critical game studies can evolve to better account for the performative components of play, for playing wrong, for “working through” games in unconventional, opportune permutations of theory and practice. Put another way, this talk proposes an autotheory for critical game studies.