In a conversation with James Baldwin, Chinua Achebe said, Those who tell you “Do not put too much politics in your art” are not being honest. If you look very carefully you will see that they are the same people who are quite happy with the situation as it is. And what they are saying is not don’t introduce politics. What they are saying is don’t upset the system. They are just as political as any of us. It’s only that they are on the other side.
Day One in the post-Trump election landscape saw a rise in violence against queer people, people of color, and other minoritarian bodies in the United States. We as educators and game makers have even more of a responsibility to our students and to our game development. Now is the time to organize. Now is the time to create interactive media art than can disrupt Empire.
We are ready to upset the system. We aspire for games to be beautiful and political. We ask ourselves: how can we encourage, inspire, and protect our queer students? How can we mobilize to defend each other and ourselves in these times? How can we use our classrooms as spaces to show how queer liberation is tied to Black liberation and undocumented people’s human rights?
In the spirit of seminal feminist text This Bridge Called My Back, we plan to convene a kitchen table conversation between scholars, educators, students, and industry people. This will not be a session where we bemoan our lack of representation. We already know the struggle is real. Instead, we will talk strategy and share resources. Junior faculty will share our pedagogical techniques to make our classrooms and our coursework exploratory spaces for emotional, intellectual, and creative growth. Both undergraduate and graduate students will share their experiences for how we can be better educators and better support systems for queer students in higher education. Industry professionals will identify strategies to prepare games students to disrupt game development from the inside. We envision this roundtable to be a starting place and the first of many future conversations. Our discussion at QGCon allows for a physical space for people to meet, network, and begin to organize. We imagine the strategies and resources shared will be gathered into a resource guide that we will discuss as a group how to share and disseminate safely.
Alexandrina Agloro is an Assistant Professor of Interactive Media & Game Development and Humanities and Arts at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She’s currently a co-chair of the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Committee for FemTechNet, a multi-university collaborative feminist technology organization. She is the Futurist for the Latino Pacific Archive and is working on developing a line of ovulation-tracking jewelry that is both affordable and flawlessly stylish. As a community-based researcher and participatory designer, her speculative work is anchored in lived experience.
Amanda Phillips is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Georgetown University. She received her Ph.D. as a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with an emphasis certificate from the Department of Feminist Studies. Her research unites interdisciplinary software and game studies approaches with feminist, queer, and critical race theory, investigating specific design practices like digital animation and avatar customization to understand how difference is produced and policed in technological interfaces. Her interests more broadly are in issues of social justice in and around technoculture, popular media, and the digital humanities.
Originally from Taiwan, Hong-An (Ann) Wu is a community-based educator, new media artist, and doctoral candidate in art education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her dissertation examines the potential of transforming systems and structures with youth through prosumer development and critical play of video games in community-based settings. As part of the Everyday Arts Lab initiative, which is funded by the Office of Public Engagement at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she has piloted video game modification workshops with youths at public school and library. Currently, Ms. Wu is serving as the Information and Communication Technology Specialist at FemTechNet, which is an activated network of scholars, students, and artists who work on, with, and at the borders of technology, science, and feminism.
Rachel Burton is an undergraduate student of game development at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She’s released one game with MassDiGi, has worked with Girls Make Games, and co-teaches a workshop on game development at the Worcester Public Library. In the past, she has worked with WPI’s campus LGBT+ activism organization, The Alliance, and is currently a part of the Diversity in Games club. Currently she is working on her senior project: making changes to an existing math tutoring software to make it more accessible to Spanish-speaking ESL students, as well as introducing a game for all students to enjoy.
Klew Williams is a master’s candidate and Research Assistant at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her focus is on interactive art, wearable technology, and delivering educational content in novel ways. Before returning to school, Klew worked for five years as a Product Manager, Project Manager and Software Designer in Denver, CO, where she was an internationally competitive bare knuckle fighter and karate instructor. She enjoys painting, gaming, and getting outdoors.
Josef Nguyen is an assistant professor of game studies at The University of Texas at Dallas in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication. His research engages science and technology studies as well as media studies, with particular interest in the politics of play, toys, and games in contemporary digital culture. His current book-length project investigates contemporary debates regarding creativity, children, and digital media, focusing on the gendered and domestic politics of social reproduction. His work in play and game studies, both as an instructor and a researcher, foregrounds issues of critically and politically minded design and play practices, such as modding and let’s plays.