Soft-Skinned, Hard-Coded: Straight/White/Washing in Video Games

CHANG QGCon 2015 headshotSPEAKER: Edmond Chang

Given recent coverage and critiques of the lack of diversity and difference in video games, this talk takes up the many ways games are are normative, structured, and deeply protocological particularly regarding race, gender, and sexuality even as gamers and game developers evince their promises of power, freedom, and play with identities. For example, how might we unpack the ways characters of color are often rendered as either lighter-skinned protagonists or darker-skinned enemies? Or how might we understand how the binary, algorithmic, and protocological underpinnings of both game programming and design both allow for and problematically constrain and recuperate gender and sexuality? Looking at a range of games like Assassin’s Creed, Dead Island, World of Warcaft, and FrontierVille, this talk defines the need for more than token characters or window dressing in games but for more radical, even queer design, practices, and play.

Edmond Chang is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR. His areas of interest include technoculture, gender and sexuality, cultural studies, video games, popular culture, and contemporary American literature. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Washington and his dissertation is entitled “Technoqueer: Re/con/figuring Posthuman Narratives.” He has published an article “Gaming as Writing, Or, World of Warcraft as World of Wordcraft” in Computers & Composition Online and an essay on queerness and celebrity studies called “Gay for Brad” in _Deconstructing Brad Pitt. An essay entitled “Love is in the Air: Queer (Im)Possibility and Straightwashing in FrontierVille and World of Warcraft” is forthcoming in QED in June 2015. He is also part of MLA Books’ forthcoming Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments authoring the keyword entry “queer.”