2014 Talks

Below are videos of the talks from the 2014 Queerness and Games Conference, which were live streamed throughout the event:

Queerness and Video Games: A Crash Course

Join the organizers as we kick off the 2014 Queerness and Games Conference! We’ll be talking about safe spaces, building community, and walking you through the schedule for the weekend. Then hold onto your folding chairs, because it’s crash course time. If you’ve ever wanted to learn the basics of video games, the games industry, game studies, or queer studies, we’ve got you covered.


Racism, Sexism, and Social Justice Warriors in Video Game Culture

“Gamer identity” is in a state of crisis. Gaming journalist Leigh Alexander’s claim that “gamers are over” (August 2014) reflects a shift in the political climate around whiteness, straightness, and masculinity as default identities for gamers. Yet on the other hand, “SJW’s,” or “social justice warriors,” some of whose activism has driven this shift, have become stigmatized. This paper will discuss woman of color feminism and its relation to this tainted identity.

Meaningful Mechanics: Games, Difference, and Social Justice

This panel of academia-based presenters seeks to address how game mechanics interact with issues of social justice, from the perspective of both critical analysis and game design. All five presenters are interested in how the structural aspects of games, which are often treated in formalist ways without emphasis on cultural studies critique, can nevertheless offer deeply politicized moments that influence and comment on issues of difference in society.


Come add your voice to the discussion by giving an impromptu five-minute talk about whatever topic matters to you. Participation is encouraged, but you’re also welcome to simply take a seat, open your ears, and join the community.

Student Design Presentations

This year the QGCon organizers launched an on-campus educational initiative called the Queerness and Games Design Workshop. The undergraduates who participated have made five wonderful queer games. Come here them describe their goals, obstacles, and achievements. Pizza will be served!


Enabling Realities

As game designers, we create spaces that enable people to be who they aren’t – or to be more comfortably who they are. After 17 years in the game business, I realized that I hadn’t seen a game world where a young girl might want to be. After 4 years of R&D and over 1000 interviews with girls, in 1996 my colleagues and I created Purple Moon as a set of interactive worlds that we hoped would delight the girls as we had come to know them. In the same year, Mattel launched “Barbie Fashion Designer,” another “girl”-oriented space saturated with the sort of oppressive gender construction that we had come to loathe. In this talk, I will cover some of the early days of the girl games movement, then discuss how I have had my head handed to me by various contemporary feminists and what I have learned from that. As I look over my career, I can describe it as a quest for actively caring for a variety of people, including myself, through design. It is no accident that queer designers are at the cutting edge of game design innovation. We are and always have been pushing the edge of design to create interactive realities we can live in.

Workshop: Designing Inclusive Communities

What do gain from our connection to communities of other creators, thinkers and allies? What support and strength do we gain from our networks, online and in our own towns, and what would we like to see change in our creative and critical communities? Join the creator of the NY-based conference “Different Games” in thinking about the future of inclusive community building in games.

Workshop: Game Design for Non-Game-Designers

Welcome to Fun 101! We’ll learn why people play games and how we can make our own. No experience necessary!


Queerness and Beyond: Rethinking Human-Game Relations

What is a queer game, and what is queerness in games? We’ve been asking these questions over and over in recent years, and there are plenty of good answers–many of them grounded in an understanding of what games are or could be. We want to ask another question: what have games done to humanity, and what has humanity done to games? How have these two entities — one a proliferating mass of self-aware beings, the other a collection of aesthetic systems clad in gaily representational flesh — affected and shaped each other? If we grope for explanations, even without baking them fully, we can look at established assumptions about why we play and create games from new angles, and in doing so we may unearth more opportunities for queering as well — along with more responsibilities as players, makers, and critics of games.

Kinky, Queer, Disruptive

Jetta Rae, journalist, pornographer, producer of zines
With no clear “canon” of what constitutes a game of pinball or a pinball machine, there is no “beating” a game of pinball. There is only listening to & understanding the individual terms & needs & boundaries of each machine. Getting a high score in pinball requires, rather than mere skill, an anticipation of the needs of the machine.There is, in that vein, no real “good at sex”. There is only understanding, appreciating and working within the rules and boundaries of each individual partner.

Lisa Yamasaki, University of California, Los Angeles
This paper demonstrates one analysis of a popular intelligently written mainstream puzzle adventure game series, Portal: Still Alive and Portal 2. On the one hand, many players perceive that GLaDOS relationship with Chell, and by extension the player, is sadistic, yet I show that this sadism does transform the relationship between Chell and GLaDOS and sadism itself is transformed.

Jonatan Yde, Dania Academy of Higher Education
Sometimes something in a game will strike the player as odd: not odd in the sense of a breach in the game logic or a glitch in the story line, but something that is just a bit off. It may be that a game that sets the stage for a horror game turns out to be a love story, or that the sexy female action hero actually has no sexual interests herself. These oddities are moments of queer presence.

Socially Responsible Game Design

Mohini Dutta, Antidote Games
The complicated politics of designing for the Other are worth considering while creating material with a real-world implications. The intended audience is most often the Other for the designer of Serious Games, who aims to empathize and represent the plight of another within its specific organizational framework. Given the near-total removal of the Other from the design process, the narrative created is in essence a fiction, thus fundamentally unreliable.

Brad Lewter, Florida Atlantic University
Conflicts of gender and heteronormativity continue to bend game developers toward characters and narratives with gendertyped and commercialized sexuality. This paper explores character design choices made in the development of two of my interactive projects: “Remembrance” (2011) and “The Singing Ape: Life in Pink” (2012) to demonstrate how thoughtful character design can enhance narratives and characters to convey distinct differences in most commercial games.

Jeffrey Yohalem, Ubisoft Montreal
Seven years ago Jeffrey Yohalem joined Ubisoft Montreal as a designer and writer. He hoped that game-making would be like theatre production, that he and his team would do trust exercises and explore their feelings, but working in the video games industry in 2006 felt a little like teleporting into 1960s Mad Men. This is a talk about operating under the radar through writing and design, a gay-in-AAA journey to subvert hyper masculine gaming culture from Assassin’s Creed, to Far Cry 3, to Child of Light.

Coffee: A Misunderstanding

A queer and socially awkward interactive play about the weirdness of online friendships that aren’t really friendships, set in the midst of a fan convention called AwesomeCon.

Asexuality and Video Games Roundtable (Audio Only)

Queerness takes many forms, and asexuality is an important topic in the queer community. However, little has been said about how asexuality might relate to video games. Add your voice to this discussion about asexuality, desire in video games, and new paths for design.

The Future of Queerness and Games

Where have we been? Where are we going? Join the organizers as we reflect on the weekend’s sessions and discuss our hopes for the future.

Not Recorded:
“Queer Gaming Communities” – Matt Conn, Chris Goetz, Alfred Twu

“Decompression Session” – Zoya Street, Mattie Brice

“Gender / Play” – Sarah Lynne Bowman, Hanna Brady