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Book review: Gamer Trouble (2020)

I just realized this came out last month, but I am excited to share my book review of Amanda Phillips' Gamer Trouble: Feminist Confrontations in Digital Culture (2020), now out in New Media & Society.

Here's a preview from the review:

As Amanda Phillips notes in the introduction of her book Gamer Trouble, gamers are no strangers to the concept of trouble. While the conventional association between gamers and trouble has centered discourses such as games and violence or online harassment campaigns, for Phillips, “gamer trouble” refers to the tensions that exist at the nexuses of digital games software, the hardware they are played on, and those who play them. From the ways that fan communities police gaming “expertise” to how the technological limitations in games create friction between in-game identification and players’ lived identities, Gamer Trouble is predicated on stirring up intellectual trouble by challenging us to rethink our

approaches to analyzing games production and consumption, especially when it comes to representation in games.

Arguably the book’s boldest site of interrogation, however, is the field of game studies itself. Phillips takes the field to task over its historic devaluing of queer, feminist, and critical race approaches to studying games. Gamer Culture centers queer and women of colors feminisms in Phillips’ analyses of toxic gaming culture, the industry’s animation process, and players’ complicated relationships with “feminist” video game characters.

Gamer Trouble is structured around three sites of the “gamic system:” games discourse, technology, and representation. Chapter 1 illustrates how the discourse surrounding video game “expertise” marginalizes women, queer folks, and people of color. Phillips recounts gaming culture’s storied history of online harassment campaigns in which feminist “killjoys” are discounted as non-experts on games, rendering their criticisms invalid. Phillips artfully draws comparisons between the gatekeeping around knowledge-making in fan communities and game studies’ own epistemological policing. She argues that in its attempts to establish itself as a legitimate academic field, game studies has long privileged positivist notions of “rigor” at the expense of game studies scholars who are queer, people of color, or women.

Read the rest over at New Media & Society (paywall).

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