ASA 2014: I’m Here!

Just a quick note to say I’m in LA at ASA 2014!

I’ll be giving a paper tomorrow (I’ve pasted the panel abstract below — the program doesn’t link very well).

Comment on this or tweet at me (@SGPokornowski) if you want to meet up or have a panel I should see!

Digital Deaths and Disenfranchisements: Reading Pleasure, Pain, and Politics in Video Games

Fri, November 7, 2:00 to 3:45pm, Westin Bonaventure, Level 3, Santa Monica D (L3)

Session Submission Type: Paper Session: Traditional Format


Video games, as the top grossing entertainment industry in the US, are enormously influential on popular culture and politics, and as such are increasingly important in the academic scene. Although media effects research finds no conclusive correlation between violence in video games and violence in the real world, one cannot separate categories such as gender, race, and class from the digital bodies on which and through which this violence is enacted. Moreover, it is difficult to account for the rippling cultural effects such representations have on society. Indeed, the vindication of gamers on the basis of this empirical data belies the problems evident in the community with discursive violence against those who fall outside of the so-called target demographic of the white, straight male.
This panel seeks to understand the seedy underbelly of digital entertainment and its relation to social justice by submitting it to the lenses of feminist, queer, critical race, and biopolitical critique. By turning video game studies toward the strengths of these academic disciplines, we hope to unpack how digital texts, simultaneously narrative and technological systems, reinforce hegemonic systems of power while simultaneously offering means of resistance in the form of critical readings and denial of the continuous neoliberal pressure to succeed.

Bonnie Ruberg will set the theoretical tone of the panel in “It Feels Good to Lose: Playing Video Games Masochistically,” which builds on the work of queer theorist J.Jack Halberstam and game studies scholar Jesper Juul to theorize failure in games as a pleasurable masochistic endeavor that is fundamental to what makes them fun, contrary to the prevailing perception of games as what Ruberg calls “sadism simulators.” Amanda Phillips’ paper, “Techropolitics: Tropes of Death and Dying in Video Games” will continue this theme by examining how the procedural systems of video games, in true necropolitical fashion, dictate who can die in games and in what fashion – and makes the whole production fun. Jordan Youngblood’s “‘Scattered Amongst the Possibility Space’: Bioshock Infinite and the Privileged Player of Pain” examines of the incongruous violence in the otherwise politically nuanced world of the popular recent release Bioshock: Infinite to reveal the gendered and racial logics that reserve the privilege of enjoying pain in the game for a select few. Finally, Steven Pokornowski will conclude the paper portion of the panel with “(Un)Healthy Competition: Video Games and the Mediation of Neoliberal Structures of Feeling,” bringing together the experience of pleasure and pain in gaming with an examination of how these products train gamers in the affective registers of neoliberalism and accumulation of capital.

Lisa Nakamura, whose work on race, gender, and harassment in video games and contemporary technoculture has been foundational to the field, will close the panel by providing commentary on these papers and leading discussion.

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