“Racism, Sexism, and Video Games: Social Justice Campaigns and the Struggle for Gamer Identity”. This was the title of the first Quello Lecture for the new academic year. Professor Lisa Nakamura introduced several extreme examples of sexism and racism, but the real issue of the lecture and of the audience’s comments was not merely the prominence of some very ugly and disgusting phenomena in the gaming world. Rather, it was the interface between the gaming universe and the real world; it was about culture and culture wars, about social justice warriors, about women and men, about feminism and anti-feminism, and about how relationships travel across these different worlds. And yes, it was about avatars as well.
To what extent do our fake images allow some of us (I mean the gamers) to be nasty – and even criminal – in the gaming world? Professor Robby Rattan, after a wonderful rap show about quantitative and qualitative research, raised the idea that if gamers could have a fake image which is far from a human one (not just human bodies without arms, for example), something totally fictional, if I may add, maybe some disgusting human characteristics (such as sexism and racism) would be vanished. You must admit that it is a very attractive idea.
Oh, I almost forgot, there was wonderful light refreshment before the lecture, and there was a drinks reception after the lecture (which I did not attend because I had to hurry for my evening walk with my wife. Sorry). The whole event took place at the very busy Kellogg Conference Center (we could hear the voices and buzz of other events through the walls), contributing to a very promising beginning for the Quello Lectures to follow.
To view more pictures from Dr. Nakamura’s lecture, please visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/quellocenter/sets/72157648470967778/
Avshalom Ginosar, PhD
Communication Department, The Academic College of Yezreel Valley
Visiting Scholar, The Quello Center, The Department of Media & Information, The College of Communication Art & Science, Michigan State University
Time Magazine ran an article last week by game journalist Leigh Alexander on “Sexism, Lies and Video Games: The Culture War Nobody Is Winning” http://time.com/3274247/video-game-culture-war/ Game researchers and game designers who think deeply about who we are when we play videogames and how games affect us will be attending and presenting at the international Meaningful Play conference (http://meaningfulplay.msu.edu) in East Lansing, October 16-18.
The Quello Center invites the general public and conference attendees to a pre-conference lecture: “‘Racism, Sexism, and Video Games: Social Justice Campaigns and the Struggle for Gamer Identity’ by Lisa Nakamura. The talk will be on October 15 at The Kellogg Conference Center, 6-8pm.
The identity of the video gamer as young, straight, white, and male is changing to reflect a more diverse group of users, but this transition has been accompanied by struggle and conflict. This struggle is played out in social media platforms used by “social justice warriors” to raise awareness of issue of egregious sexist and racist harassment (which itself occurs via social media platforms). Dr. Nakamura’s talk will raise key issues around race and gender within and beyond the context of games that should stimulate discussion on approaches to addressing these concerns in ways that respect the open and collaborative traditions of expression online.
Lisa Nakamura is the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor of American Cultures and Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the author of Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet (University of Minnesota Press: winner of the Asian American Studies Association 2010 book award in cultural studies), Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet (Routledge, 2002) and co-editor of Race in Cyberspace (Routledge, 2000) and Race After the Internet (Routledge, 2011).
Mia Consalvo and Robby Ratan will serve as respondents, kicking off a lively audience Q&A session. Mia Consalvo is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design at Concordia University in Montreal and President of the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA). She will deliver the opening keynote for Meaningful Play, and a paper with Christopher Yap about real games, developer pedigrees, race, class and capital.
Rabindra Ratan, Assistant Professor and AT&T Scholar at Michigan State University’s department of Media and Information, studies how different facets of mediated self-representations (e.g., gender, social identity) influence the psychological experience of media use. He is co-author on five papers, two posters, and one panel at Meaningful Play 2014 on topics including avatars, gender and social identity, and racial attitudes.
by Carrie Heeter