CGSA/ACÉJ 2022 – “ACTION!”

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Conference Details & Theme

The 2022 Canadian Game Studies Association (CGSA/ACÉJ) annual conference will be held May 31 to June 3 through a virtual format. This virtual format will build on lessons from the 2021 conference and combine pre-recorded paper and panel presentations with synchronous Q&A discussion sessions.

Even as a virtual conference, as an organization CGSA/ACÉJ is made possible by infrastructure and resources located in the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, and from various institutions located across Turtle Island. As a direct beneficiary of this ongoing colonial violence, CGSA/ACÉJ affirms its commitment to support marginalized scholars and creators and proactively make space for studies of gender, race, sexuality, ability, class, and other forms of diversity in games and gaming cultures. 

Building from our 2021 conference, Solidarity and Social Justice in Game Studies, and with the hope of helping transform the Federation of Humanities and Social Science’s commitments to anti-racism and decolonization into practice, this year’s conference theme is ACTION! We invite submissions that work toward an anti-racist and decolonial game studies. In this sense of ACTION! papers and panels might study racism and coloniality in games, resistance on the part of players and other actors in the game cultures, or use approaches that decenter Western epistemologies and challenge white supremacy.  ACTION! also highlights a critical dimension of games and gaming: the interactive or participatory element of a player at play. Papers and panels thinking about this sense of ACTION! might examine forms, contexts, and/or sites of interaction, how players, developers, and others in gaming scenes act on games, and/or games as social action. Accepted papers and panels that address either senses of the theme ACTION! will be highlighted in special sessions throughout the conference.


Opening Keynote: Game Design in the Imperial Mode

A Keynote Address by Meghna Jayanth
When: Tuesday, May 31 from 12:00-1:00 PM EDT
Where: Streamed LIVE at https://www.twitch.tv/cgsaacej

CGSA/ACÉJ is proud to announce the first of two keynotes which will be featured at this year’s conference and made available to the public!

What are the unspoken structures and imperatives that shape game design under capitalism-colonialism? I aim to explicate some of the features of game design under what Brand and Wissen call the “imperial mode” of living – how the themes we return to as designers and our “best practices” not only replicate but serve as propaganda for dominant cultural narratives. And hopefully, in naming the normative, opening up possibilities for resistance and subversion to this mode, beyond the “white protagonist” and “white player” which are embedded into our approach to design as well as our expectations of what games, protagonism and interactivity can be.

The keynote will be moderated by CGSA’s President and Associate Professor at The University of Waterloo, Gerald Voorhees!

An illustration of Meghna Jayanth, in which she faces left with her eyes closed. Her hair is a gradient from yellow to pink.

Meghna Jayanth is a narrative designer. 80 Days, her anti-colonial retelling of Verne’s classic novel won the Independent Games Festival’s Narrative award, earned four BAFTA nominations and was named TIME’s Game of the Year.  She won a Writer’s Guild UK award in 2015 for 80 Days, and a 2018 Writer’s Guild of America award as part of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s writing team.

She has contributed to world-building and narrative design for Sunless Sea, This War of Mine, Falcon Age and Sable. Her latest project is Thirsty Suitors, a game of disappointing your immigrant parents, battling your exes and finding yourself.

Follow Meghna on Twitter: @betterthemask


Closing Keynote: The Future of Video Games – Race, Play, and the Speculative Imagination

A Keynote Address by TreaAndrea M. Russworm
When: Friday, June 3 from 10:45-11:50 PM EDT
Where: Streamed LIVE at https://www.twitch.tv/cgsaacej

What is the future of video games? Truly accessible design—finally, endless micro-transactions, free-to-play parties? In this talk, which is written as a love letter to the industry, TreaAndrea M. Russworm explores different modalities of Black cultural life—hip hop, Blaxploitation film, popular fiction, and simulation games—as spatial-speculative tools for playing in a broken world. What can Black speculative thinking teach us about navigating the boundaries of open and closed systems? What does it mean to be repetitiously transfixed in a Black queer time and space? How do we make sense of the many forms and platforms that enable us to both witness and remediate the pain and pleasures of play and protest? This love letter, which is addressed to Mos Def, Octavia Butler, and Black game designers, is also written to you, if you consent, in hopes that together we can critically explore some of the ways in which Black epistemologies model productive ways of dissolving and transgressing the boundaries of the “good no-place” where games collide with the cinematic and other arts.

The keynote will be moderated by CGSA’s Member-At-Large and Associate Teaching Professor at Ontario Tech University, Andrea Braithwaite!

a photograph of treaandrea m russworm, who is looking at the camera and sitting in front of a shelf of books.

A self-proclaimed AfroGeek, TreaAndrea M. Russworm, Ph.D (she/her) is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Series Editor of Power Play: Games, Politics, Culture (Duke University Press).

She is also currently an Associate Editor for Outreach and Equity for the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies. With research expertise in digital media, popular culture, African American studies, and video games, Professor Russworm is also the founder of Radical Play, a public humanities initiative, afterschool program, and equitable game design lab. She is the author or editor of three books: Blackness is Burning: Civil Rights, Popular Culture, and the Problem of RecognitionGaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games; and From Madea to Media Mogul: Theorizing Tyler Perry. She is currently writing three new books on race, video games, and the politics of play.

Website: https://treaandrea.squarespace.com
Follow TreaAndrea on Twitter: @ProfessorTMR


Plenary Panel: Action! Research!

A plenary panel on action, activism, and advocacy in games
When: Wednesday, June 1 from 11:00-12:45 PM EDT
Where: Streamed LIVE at https://www.twitch.tv/cgsaace

CGSA/ACÉJ is proud to announce the following plenary panel which will be featured at this year’s conference and made available to the public!

Over the last decade, forms of action research in games have made interventions in the pursuit of equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice in a range of sectors, including game-making at jams (Kennedy, 2018), the organization and management of eSports teams (Taylor, 2017), and the framing of histories of gaming (Shaw, Rudolph & Schnorrenberg, 2019). In this panel we explore the challenges and possibilities for research aimed at anti-racist and decolonial action, particularly in the games industry and broader games culture. Our invited plenary speakers have extensive experience in bridging academia and games through action, activism, and advocacy, and this discussion will foreground lessons learned in doing the work of making change in games.

The panel will be moderated by CGSA’s Vice-President and Assistant Professor at Glendon College, York University, Alison Harvey!

Speakers
A photograph of Samantha Blackmon, where she smiles and looks at the camera in front of a white background.

Samantha Blackmon is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Composition and affiliated faculty in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at Purdue University. Her research focuses on games as cultural critique and the intersections of race, gender, and technology in and around the games industry.

Her work can be found in Feminist Media Histories, Computer Games and Technical Communication, and CEA Critic. She is the co-founder and co-host of the award-winning feminist game studies blog and podcast Not Your Mama’s Gamer and the winner of the SIGDOC Rigo Award for lifetime contribution to the field of communication design.

Follow Samantha on Twitter: @Saffista (academic), @nymg_saffista (streaming)

Carolyn Jong is a labour organizer and freelance game developer. She graduated from Concordia University with a PhD in Humanities in 2020. Her research focused on GamerGate and the Alt-Right, capitalist crisis and imperialism, and the importance of grassroots feminist and labour organizing within the North American videogame industry and academic institutions. She has been an active participant in anti-fascist, feminist, and labour organizing for many years, and is currently a member of Game Workers Unite Montréal.

Follow Carolyn on Twitter: @ckjong

A photograph of Stephanie Fisher, in which she smiles and looks at the camera in front of a black background.

Stephanie Fisher is a Co-Director at Pixelles, a non-profit dedicated to supporting women and improving gender diversity in the games industry. She collaborates with video game organizations, industry partners and scholars to create programs that support underrepresented game makers and research the impact of community-driven, inclusivity-focused initiatives.

She is also the Social Sciences Partnered Research Officer at the University of Toronto and has served as a co-director for DMG Toronto, a board member for The Hand Eye Society, and as the Treasurer for CGSA. Her research on gender and games has been published in Feminist Media StudiesLearning, Media & Technology, and Loading