News Update: Gamergate, Hospital Play, VR Experiences, Neoliberal Narrative, Player Diversity, Funding, Digital Culture and Comics.

Welcome to another post that rounds up some recent new stories and journal articles that deal with issues relevant to Gaming Horizon’s focus on gaming, education, culture and society.

In a recent Guardian article, Anita Sarkessian reflects on her role in the Gamergate episode and the ongoing harassment and abuse faced by those who challenge dominant narratives in video games, and the video game industry as a whole. Whilst Sarkessian notes that change has happened in some aspects relating to gaming, there is still clearly a ‘toxic’ atmosphere around discussions of gender that manifest on social media and, therefore, still much work to be done.

An article by Dylan Yamada Rice considers the value of gameplay in the lives of hospitalised children. The article describes a multi-disciplinary project that brought together hospital play specialists, academics and representatives from the digital games industry to co-produce knowledge that could be used in the future production of a video game designed for children in hospital.

A new virtual reality ‘experience’ has highlighted issues around the use of digital technologies that deal with contentious, sensitive or serious  issues. Here, Alpha ask ‘Does a VR Auschwitz simulator cross an ethical line?’ They report on how a design studio ‘believe virtual reality has untapped potential to immerse and educate the world on the most important parts of human history’. However, they also draw attention to the ‘ethical minefield’ that such a virtual environment presents.

A new article in Games and Culture considers the way in which video games portray narrative, exploring specifically how the game Bioshock Infinite potentially serves to reinforce ‘neoliberal values’. This helps to emphasise one of our project’s dimensions, relating to the cultural impact of videogames. Also in Games and culture, a paper entitled ‘Friends with Benefits’,  challenges the notion of ‘hard core gamers’ being predominantly ‘straight, cis-gendered, White, adolescent men’, seeking to explore the diversity of players who actually engage regularly in video game play.

An article by Patrick Klepek on Waypoint considers issues around game design relating to the financial viability of particular games, taking aim at games that include microtransactions that form part of the game’s mechanics. There is a concern raised here that complex, single player, narrative based games could be at risk in an environment where the development of such titles is dictated by the fact that ‘publishers want to make as much money as possible—at whatever cost.’

Meanwhile, Rob Gallagher suggests in the Guardian that video games would be a good place to start if politicians are seeking to develop their understanding of digital culture.

Finally, a new collaborative comic seeks to represent the complex social effects of videogame play. According to the website: ‘Video Games For Good’ is a multi-artist collaboration that focusses on the positive outcomes of video games be they strengthened family bonds, stress relief and escapism, new friendships or simple nostalgia. The project also aims to tackle negative stereotypes that video games are only enjoyed by certain types of people or that the hobby only has detrimental effects.’