Video Games Have Always Been Queer
Bonnie Ruberg, University of California Irvine
March 18 | 12:30 PM — 2:00 PM | BCNM Commons, 340 Moffitt Library, UC Berkeley, California, United States of America
While popular discussions about queerness in video games often focus on big-name, mainstream games that feature LGBTQ characters, like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, Bonnie Ruberg pushes the concept of queerness in games beyond a matter of representation, exploring how video games can be played, interpreted, and designed queerly, whether or not they include overtly LGBTQ content. Video Games Have Always Been Queer argues that the medium of video games itself can—and should—be read queerly.
In the first book dedicated to bridging game studies and queer theory, Ruberg resists the common, reductive narrative that games are only now becoming more diverse. Revealing what reading D. A. Miller can bring to the popular 2007 video game Portal, or what Eve Sedgwick offers Pong, Ruberg models the ways game worlds offer players the opportunity to explore queer experience, affect, and desire. As players attempt to ‘pass’ in Octodad or explore the pleasure of failure in Burnout: Revenge, Ruberg asserts that, even within a dominant gaming culture that has proved to be openly hostile to those perceived as different, queer people have always belonged in video games—because video games have, in fact, always been queer.
Bonnie Ruberg, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of digital games and interactive media in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. Their research explores gender and sexuality in digital media and digital cultures. They are the author of Video Games Have Always Been Queer (NYU Press, 2019) and the co-editor of Queer Game Studies (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), as well as the co-lead organizer and co-founder of the annual Queerness and Games Conference. They received their Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in conjunction with the Berkeley Center for New Media and served as a Provost's Postdoctoral Scholar in the Interactive Media and Games Division at the University of Southern California.