NeMLA 2021: Identity, Diversity, and Representation in Video Games

Theodore Harrison's picture
Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
September 30, 2020
Location: 
Pennsylvania, United States
Subject Fields: 
African American History / Studies, Asian American History / Studies, Black History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Ethnic History / Studies

With more research and analysis of video games as literary and cultural media in the last few years, there are still substantial gaps relating to the role of diversity and non-normative identities in games. This roundtable panel welcomes papers topics related (but not limited to) the role of identity in video games, the expression of non-normative identities through games, inclusion and diversity in the video game industry, and any other topics related to identity and representation in video games.

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Video games may be the only medium that allows one to inhabit a new identity: that is, to “test drive” alternative roles. In this sense, video games are unique in allowing players to enter, engage, and play in a simulated world. As a result, players are able to inhabit avatars or player-characters who may have various genders, ethnicities, or sexual orientations.

Yet despite possibilities for the exploration of identity, the mainstream video game industry has been dominated by a heteronormative bias which typically excludes strong or nuanced representations of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ characters.

In contrast, independently developed games are becoming a strong platform for expression and experimentation with gender roles, identity, and sexuality. The independent game Dys4ia, for example, gives players a quick glimpse into the struggles of gender transition.

These challenges to traditional game elements are encouraging developers of mainstream video games, like the Last of Us and Overwatch, to also include characters with diverse identities.

Cyberpunk 2077, a forthcoming game from Polish developer CD Projekt Red, is also currently generating discussion within the game community for its removal a traditional gender selection in its character creation system in favor of allowing players to create a character free from gendered limitations.

This panel will contribute to this discussion and welcomes papers on the role of identity in video games, the expression of non-normative identities through games, inclusion and diversity in the video game industry, and any other topics related to identity and representation in video games. Possible approaches include the status of video games as literary and cultural media; the role of diversity, inclusion, and non-normative identities in games; and the ways that independent game developers continue to innovate and challenge the traditional form of video game design and genre forms.

 

Please submit all abstracts before 30 September 2020.

This panel is a part of the Northeast MLA conference which will be held in Philadelphia, PA 11 March 2021-14 March 2021.  Guidelines on abstract submissions can be found on the NeMLA website at https://www.buffalo.edu/nemla/convention/callforpapers/submit.html.

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