Digital Games

Digital gaming comes in three main varieties these days -- computer games (no longer restricted to laptops and desktops), console video games (Nintendo, XBox, Playstation), and online games (also now played on a variety of devices, including smartphones). The books, articles, and sites presented below offer a variety of perspectives on games and gamer culture, with special emphasis on such issues as race/ethnicity. gender and sexuality.

A NOTE TO GAMERS: Based on response forums, gamers tend to be a sensitive, defensive and vocal lot who love to shout "It's only a game, stupid!" So here is a caveat emptor: Much of the material below is critical of aspects of games and gamer culture. It should go without saying that there are hundreds of wonderful games and thousands of great gamers. But this is not a site dedicated to celebrating digital cultures, it is dedicated to improving them. And, strangely enough, in order to improve things you have to point out things that need improvement.

So, unless you can make an argument that racism, sexism and homophobia are intrinsically necessary in games, how about supporting efforts to open up gaming to people who are currently unable to enjoy their pleasures because they often feel more like targets than players.

General Works on Gaming Culture

Bogost, I. How to Do Things with Videogames. U Minnesota Press, 2011. Argues for a much wider view of videogames as a platform for art, education, documentation, politics, and much more

--. Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006.

Corneliussen, Hilde. and Jill Walker Rettberg. eds. Digital Culture, Play, and Identity A World of Warcraft® Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008. Best study yet of a single game/gamer community.

Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Simon , Jonas Heide Smith, and Susana Pajares Tosca. Understanding Video Games NY: Routledge, 2012 [2nd edition]. The companion web site to the second edition of this influential anthology includes a useful timeline on video game history, and links to some excellent resources for game study.

Garrelts, Nate. ed. Digital Game Play: Essays on the Nexus of Game and Gamer. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co, 2005.

Juul, Jesper. The Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Player. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.

--. Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005

King, G., and K Tanya.. Tomb Raiders and Space Invaders: Videogame Forms and Contexts. London: I.B. Tauris, 2006

Kline, S., Dyer-Witheford, N., & De Peuter, G. Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003.

Mateas, M., & Stern, A. "Interaction and Narrative." In K. Salen & E. Zimmerman, eds. The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology. 642-669. Cambridge: MIT Press. 2006.

Newan, James. Best Before: Videogames, Supersession, and Obsolescence. NY: Routledge: 2012.

Santorineos, M, and N. Dimitriadi (eds.) Gaming Realities: A Challenge for Digital Culture. Athens: Fournos, 2006.

Wardrip-Fruin, N., & Harrigan, P. First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004.

Wark, MacKenzie. Gamer Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007.

Wolf, Mark J.P. and Bernard Perron. eds. The Video Game Theory Reader. NY: Routledge, 2003.

-- eds. The Video Game Theory Reader 2. NY: Routledge, 2008.

Gender and Sexuality in Gaming

Black, Samantha. "Not Your Mama's Gamer"

Barton, Mathew. Gay Characters in Video Games.

Beavis, Catherine. Pretty Good for a Girl: Gender, Identity and Computer Games. From the 2005 DIGRA conference.

Bennet, Dorothy, Brunner, Cornelia, and Honey, Margaret. “Girl Games and Technological Desire.” From Barbie to Mortal Kombat. Eds. Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1999. 72-89.

Burgess, Melinda, Steven Stermer, and Stephen Burgess. "Sex, Lies, and Video Games: The Portrayal of Male and Female Characters on Video Game Covers." Sex Roles. 57.5/6 (2007): 419-433.

Bryce, Jo and Rutter, Jason. “Killing Like a Girl: Gendered Gaming and Girl Gamers’ Visibility.” Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference Proceedings. Ed. Frans Mäyrä. Tampere University Press: Tampere, 2002.

Carr, Diane. Contexts, Pleasures and Preferences: Girls Playing Computer Games From the 2005 DIGRA conference.

Cassell, Justine and Jenkins, Henry, eds. From Barbie to Mortal Kombat. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1999.

Corneliussen, Hilde G., “World of Warcraft as a Playground for Feminism.” In Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader. Cambridge, MIT Press, 2008: 63-86.

Davis, James. Understanding the Social and Cultural Processes Behind the Continual Male Dominance of Computer and Video Game Production and Consumption. Gamasutra (May 2002). [Use the search term "gender" to locate this and other useful articles on Gamasutra.]

Denner, Jill, et al. Girls Creating Games: Challenging Existing Assumptions about Game Content From 2005 DIGRA conference.

“Digital Women: Desire and Loathing in the Videgame Industry.” Edge. 121 (2003): 54-65.

ELSPA (Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association). "Chicks and Joysticks: an exploration of women and gaming." White paper. September, 2004.

Feminist Gamers Comments on PALGN's roundtable on Sexism in Video Games. Feminist Gamers. April 2007.

GLAAD. GLAAD forum on Homophobia in [Digital Gaming] Communities Video of a conference with industry leaders tackling the issue of homophobia in gaming.

Graner Ray, Sheri. Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market. Charles River Media, Inc. 2004.

Hayes, Elisabeth. "Gendered Identities at Play: Case Studies of Two Women Playing Morrowind." Games and Culture (2007): 23-48.

Ivins, Jessica. RetroType Playful commentary on female avatar stereotypes from the not so good old days 1970s to 2005.

Jenson, Jennifer and Suzanne de Castell. Girls and Gaming: Gender Research, “Progress” and the Death of Interpretation. From the 2007 DIGRA conference.

--. Theorizing Gender and Digital Gameplay: Oversights, Accidents and Surprises. Eludamos 2 (1) (2008):.15-25.

Jenkins, Henry. Complete Fredom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces. Also in Cassell and Jenkins, eds. From Barbie to Mortal Kombat. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1999.

Jenkins, Henry. "From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Further Reflections." Playing By The Rules: The Cultural Policy Challenges of Video Games. University of Chicago, Chicago. Oct. 2001. 6 Feb. 2006 .

Joynt-Borger, Sarah. Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome: We examine symptoms of false chivalry and sexism in World of Warcraf.t Games Radar, n.d.

Kennedy, Helen W. Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo? On the Limits of Textual Analysis. Games Studies 2(2) (2002):.

Lin, Holin. Gendered Gaming Experience in Social Space: From Home to Internet Café From 2005 DIGRA conference.

Kerr, Aphra. “Girls Women Just Want To Have Fun – A Study Of Adult Female Player Of Digital Games.” Level Up: Digital Games Research Conference. Eds. Marinka Copier and Joost Raessen. DIGRA: Utrecht University, 2003.

Leigh, Chris, ed. Roundtable - Sexism and Video Games. PALGN (April 2007).

Luteria, Evan. Sexuality and Sexual Orientation in Computer and Console Games From Gamology (2006).

MacCallum-Stewart, Esther. Real Boys Carry Girly Epics: Normalising Gender Bending in Online Games Eludamos.

Raymond, Alex. Women Aren't Vending Machines: How Video Games Perpetuate the Commodity Model of Sex. Game Critics (August 2009)

Schleiner, Anne Marie (2000) "Does Lara Croft Ware Fake Polygons: Gender Analysis of the "1st person shooter/adventure game with female heroine' and Gender Role Subversion and Production in the Game Patch" available Switch: Electronic Gender: Art at the Interstice at http://switch.sjsu.edu/web/v4n1/annmarie.html.

Schroder, A. We don't want it changed, do we?' Gender and Sexuality in Role Playing Games. Eludamos. 2 (2) (2008) .

Sutro. WoW That's Boring. Let's Add Sexism Feministing (2009).

Taylor, Nicholas, et. al. Gender in Play: Mapping a Girls’ Gaming Club. From the 2007 DIGRA conference.

Taylor, T. L. “Multiple Pleasures: Women and Online Gaming.” Convergence 9(1) (2003): 21-46.

Westecott, Emma. Introduction to Gender and Games - Moving the field forward Eludamos

Gamers Against Racism!

Race/Ethnicity in Gaming

Bogost, I. Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007.

Chan, Playing with Race: Ethics of Racialized Representation in E-Games International Review of Information Ethics 4 (2005).

Curlew, A. Brady. Liberal Sims?: Simulated Difference and the Commodity of Social Diversity. From 2005 DIGRA conference.

DeVane Benm and Kurt D. Squire. "The Meaning of Race and Violence in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."
Games and Culture, 3 (2008): 264-28.

DiSalvo, Betsy James, Kevin Crowley, and Roy Norwood. "Learning in Context: Digital Games and Young Black Men."
Games and Culture 3 (2008): 131-141.

Dymek, Mikolaj and Thomas Lennerfors. Among Pasta-loving Mafiosos, Drug-selling Columbians and Noodle-eating Triads? Race, Humour and Interactive Ethics in Grand Theft Auto III. From 2005 DIGRA conference.

Foster, Thomas. The Souls of Cyberfolk: Posthumanism as Vernacular Theory. Minnepolis: U Minnesota P, 2005.

Good, Owen. MInority Report: The Non-White Gamer Experience

Higgin, T. "Blackless Fantasy: The Disappearance of Race in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games." Games and Culture 4.1 (2009):3-26.

Hoegland, Johan. Electronic Empire: Orientalism Revisited in the Military Shooters Game Studies.

Hung, Chia-Yuan. Video Games in Context: An Ethnographic Study of Situated Meaning-making Practices of Asian Immigrant Adolescents in New York City. From 2007 DIGRA conference.

Jones, Vanessa E. The Debate over Stereotypes in Video Games: A No-Win Situation Boston Globe 5/5/2008.

Kafai, Yasmin B., Melissa S. Cook, and Deborah A. Fields‘‘'Blacks Deserve Bodies Too!'': Design and Discussion About Diversity and Race in a Tween Virtual World." Games and Culture 5 (2010): 43-63. Also available in an

Kolko, Beth. "Erasing @race: Going White in the (Inter)Face." In Beth Kolko et al., eds. Race in Cyberspace. NY: Routledge, 2000: 213-232.

Langer, Jessica. "The Familiar and the Foreign Playing (Post)Colonialism in World of Warcraft." In Cornelissun and Rettberg, eds. Digital Culture, Play, and Identity A World of Warcraft® Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008: 87-108.

Leonard, D. J. "Not a Hater, Just Keepin' It Real: The Importance of Race- and Gender-Based Game Studies."
Games and Culture 1 (2006): 83-88.

--. "To the White Extreme: Conquering Athletic Space, White Manhood, and Racing Virtual Reality." In N. Garrelts. ed., Digital Gameplay: Essays on the Nexus of Game and Gamer.110-129. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.

Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. Routledge, 2002.
Groundbreaking book on the transferral of stereotypes into cybertypes.

--. Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet. University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
Extends the cybertypes analysis to the visual dimensions of the digital cultures.

Nelson, Alondra, and Thuy Lihn N. Tu, with Alicia Headlam Hines, eds. Technicolor: Race Technology, and Everyday Life. New York University Press, 2001.
 Demonstrates long history of engagement with digital technologies by people of color.

--. "Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet." Works and Days 13(1-2), (1996): 181-193.

Miller, K. (2007). "Jacking the Dial: Radio, Race, and Place in Grand Theft Auto." Ethnomusicology, 51(3), 402-438.

Ow, Jeffrey. "The Revenge of the Yellowfaced Cyborg Terminator." In Beth E Kolko, Lisa Nakamura and Gilbert B Rodman eds. Race in Cyberspace. (New York: Routledge, 2000): 51-68.

Parry, David. Playing with Style."

Sample, Mark. Virtual Torture: Videogames and the War on Terror.

Sisler, Vit Digital Arabs: Representation in Video Games Digital Islam.

Tucker, Elner. The Orientalist Perspective: Cultural Imperialism in Gaming. Gamology (2006).

Wyeld, Theodor G . The Ethics of Indigenous Storytelling: using the Torque Game Engine to Support Australian Aboriginal Cultural Heritage. From 2007 DIGRA conference.

Online Game & Game Studies Resources

  • Gamer site for people with disabilities.
  • Border House Blog for gamers marginalized by race, gender, sexuality or disability.
  • Canadian Game Studies Association
  • Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA)
  • Game Critics
  • Games and Culture
  • Game Studies
  • Gamology
  • Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture
  • International Journal of Computer Game Technology
  • Journal of Virtual Worlds Research
  • Ludology
  • Video Game Studies
  • Watercooler Games (archive)
  • Alternative Games/Gamers Sites

  • Female Gamer
  • Frag Dolls US branch of an international team of professional female gamers recruited by Ubisoft to promote their video games, and to improve the visibility and power of women in the game industry.
  • Game Girl Advance Excellent, thoughtful blog looking at games through the lens of gender.
  • Games for Change
  • Gamers Against Racism
  • GayGamers.Net
  • Gaymer.Org
  • Gaymers
  • Gaymer World
  • Geek Feminism Serious with a sense of humor-- nice combo.
  • Girl Gamer
  • Girl Gamers Everything "girl" gamers could want, from UK.
  • Lady Gamers
  • Lesbian Gamers.com
  • Not Your Mama's Gamer
  • Thumb Bandits
  • Warcraft Chicks
  • Women in Games Important site for women in or wishing to enter the game industry.
  • Women Gamers No longer updated, but still a useful resource.