Gamic Race

Gamic Race: The Logics of Difference in Videogame Culture is my dissertation project, completed at the University of California, Riverside in 2012. It's the product of seven years of research, and is one of the first book length theories of race in videogame culture. It proposes and thinks through two key concepts: gamic race and displace racialization, mixing the theoretical with the personal and critique with actionable strategies for change.

My dissertation, Gamic Race: Logics of Difference in Videogame Culture, was completed in 2012 at the University of California, Riverside. It’s the result of seven years of study, a deep commitment to social justice and change, a lifelong interest in games, and a need to understand and dismantle racial/ethnic inequities and prejudices. As a white guy from the suburbs of Detroit, I grew up surrounded by the casual racism of highly segregated communities drawn by white flight. It was clear to me that game culture and discourse was in many ways informed by these same sentiments. This dissertation attempts to unpack how logics of difference are baked into games at a foundational level.

In short, with Gamic Race I wanted to show how race is central to the study of videogames and videogame cultures. The project emphasizes the need for critical race theory in game studies to understand how race is informed and reshaped by the logics of gameplay resulting in the multi-layered, politically complex, and agile concept of gamic race. Displaced racialization, the project’s other key concept, revises former studies of race in digital media that focus predominantly on representation, shifting interest to racialization occurring alongside or beyond bodies within game code and player experience. Moving along this trajectory, the first three chapters of Gamic Race explore different layers of gamic race and its formulation through displaced racialization: spatial, technologic, and discursive. The final chapter attempts to put theory into practice via an analysis of racially inflammatory raids of virtual worlds by users of the popular message board 4chan. These raids serve as a compelling but flawed model for future vi progressive performative interventions in gamespace. The conclusion considers how to progressively transform videogame design by placing African American expressive traditions, indie games, ethics, philosophy, and the interaction design of Erik Loyer in conversation. It’s within this nexus that the project ends, gesturing toward a future paradigm of interaction and aesthetics within videogames that handles difference productively, and does not rely solely on strategies of visual inclusion.

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