Game Cultures – Possibilities and Futures: Games and Critique

Date & Time:

15th May, 16:00


C284, Curzon B, Birmingham City University


This event is part of the weekly research seminar series for the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR). Book tickets below to hear the following papers:

Alison Harvey (University of Leicester)

Dystopian Destinies and Utopian Possibilities: What Games Tell Us About the Future of Labour

From GamerGate to the recent controversy about the removal of a game called Rape Day from the Steam store, digital play has been the sight of ongoing feminist critique and intervention on the one hand, and vitriolic harassment and reactionary backlash on the other. At the same time, the long-standing exploitation for which the games industry is known faces serious challenges with the rise of Game Workers Unite! and a growing labour movement alongside increasing automation and outsourcing of content production. In this talk, Alison Harvey explores the contours of these clashes and tensions, how they coalesce around women’s work, and what they tell us about the future of media and technology.

Ivan Girina (Brunel University London)

Another World Is Possible’ in Dignity Village: Alan Butler’s Down and Out in Los Santos and in-game photography as subversive play.

Looking at the work of Alan Butler, and particularly his piece Down and Out in Los Santos, I intend to explore in-game photography as an alternative form of engagement with video games, through which the player can claim agency over these texts, providing new understandings of their algorithmic and simulation logic. Using an in-game phone camera that allows the capture and sharing of virtual photographs from Grand Theft Auto V, Butler’s project claims to document ‘poverty and the lives of the homeless within video game environment’s socio-economic hegemony.’ Building on Miguel Sicart’s (2014) notion of play as appropriativeand disruptive, I argue that Down and Out is an example of how in-game photography allows player not only to critically address video games, but even to subvert their logic engaging in alternative forms of gaming. More specifically, I will focus on Butler’s critique of ‘virtual corporate spaces’ through his documentation of Dignity Village: a tent-based homeless camp found at the periphery of the virtual city of Los Santos. I will demonstrate how Dignity Village is, in fact, a symbolic and indexical space that blurs the lines between the “virtual” and the “real,” bridging the fictional world of GTAIV with contemporary neoliberal geopolitics.

About the speakers:

Alison Harvey is Lecturer in Media and Communication at the University of Leicester, where she leads the MA Media, Gender, and Social Justice. Her research and teaching focuses on issues of inclusivity and accessibility in digital culture, with an emphasis on games. She is the author of Gender, Age, and Digital Games in the Domestic Context published in 2015 by Routledge. Her forthcoming book, Feminist Media Studies, will be published by Polity. Her work has also appeared in a range of interdisciplinary journals, including Games & Culture, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Information, Communication & Society, Social Media & Society, and Studies in Social Justice.

Ivan Girina is a Lecturer in Game Studies at Brunel University London. He holds a PhD in Film and Television Studies from the University of Warwick and his research is currently focused on the aesthetic influence between cinema and video games. Ivan is also co-founder and member of the Editorial Board of the international academic journal G|A|M|E – Games as Art, Media and Entertainment. He has published on a variety of topics such as video game aesthetics, film and new media, media literacy and education, and Italian regional cinema.