The Games Project builds on the growing interest in the public humanities and its commitment to making academic scholarship available to broader audiences. Departing from the public humanities’ tradition of scholars sharing their own work, The Games Project focuses instead on teaching students how to share feminist and queer material through analog game-making.
The construction of games integrates experiential learning and applied theory, helps students develop communication skills, and queers notions of how academic arguments can be successfully articulated to a variety of audiences. Although analog games may seem antiquated in the digital age, game studies scholars have found that they are actually more conducive to relaying complex material than are their digital counterparts.
Informed by Queer Theory and literature on experiential learning, The Games Project asks how we maintain the complexity of classroom conversations in other spaces. We have turned to various bodies of scholarship in order to answer this question:
Game Studies is a field within Education Studies that emphasizes experiential learning through the integration of games and play into the classroom. Experiential learning is an educational theory that focuses on process and exploration to teach systems thinking and contextualize information within students’ everyday lives. Using this theory, Game Studies focuses primarily on students playing games as opposed to students making games as pedagogical exercises.
Queer Pedagogy draws from queer theory and critical pedagogy to articulate pedagogical frameworks that question normalcy and critique social structures. By and large, the field is less concerned with increasing the representation of LGBTQ+ people within curricula than it is with articulating critical forms of teaching and learning. While scholars advocate for learning queerly, most do not make clear how to do so.
Queer Game Studies has focused historically on increasing the numbers of LGBTQ+ people designing and playing video games, as well as representations of LGBTQ+ people within video games. The few queer game studies scholars and designers who explore analog games primarily write about social justice board games that fit within the genre of “empathy games.” In these games, players acquire identities different from those they experience in real life in order to better understand experiences of marginalization. However, players are not asked to engage with feminist and queer theoretical ideas.
The Games Project brings together and extends the insights of these fields. We focus on students creating games, make clear a set of mechanisms that facilitate queer learning, and have as a goal the increased circulation of feminist and queer theoretical ideas rather than simply increasing the representation of LGBTQ+ people in games and game-making.