5 Overlaps Between Platform Studies and Games Studies

Checking out the Queerness and Games Conference (QGcon), hosted by Concordia with the involvement of the Technoculture, Arts and Games (TAG) lab and international organizers, has got me thinking! One of the reasons I wanted to attend the conference is that a number of students have approached me for advice about researching topics that bring together games and social media. Another reason is that when spending time with and reading the work of games scholars, I continue to have lightbulb moments where the crossover between their research and that of social media scholars becomes even more apparent. So, here are some quick overlaps I’ve observed:

  1. Platforms and games are both forms of software – many of us are interested in interrogating that software and the way it shapes player/user experiences while also identifying player/user workarounds.
  2. We are both interested in materiality – I’ve been loving discussions of embodiment and the role of materiality in gaming including consoles, controllers, etc (a photo of a game label on floppy disc got me right in the nostalgia). This ties into platform studies-related discussions of embodied representation, interfaces, hardware, devices, and material affordances.
  3. Critiques of politics, economics, and power relations – I spend a lot of time critiquing platforms for their political leanings, their discourses about community and democracy, and their profit motives in terms of how they affect users. Similarly, games folks have discussed the politics behind whether gaming companies heed or ignore player concerns as well as the different economic drives for indie game developers in contrast to AAA game producers.
  4. Platforms and game cultures are enmeshed – Gaming fandom takes place on platforms like AO3 and Tumblr, game streamers broadcast on platforms like Twitch, and – in turn – fandom discussions and popular notions passed around social media can influence game design and the representation of marginalized individuals in games.
  5. We are tackling a lot of the same issues – It’s such a joy to be attending a queer games conference, which feels very home-y like other small, queer gatherings I’ve been to (thinking of my Digital Intimacies peeps) and perhaps certain topics are coming up that might not at other sorts of conferences. However, folks have discussed gender representation – including, and especially, the need for representation of trans and non-binary individuals – as well as the importance of counteracting racism, sexism, ablism and other social issues in relation to games. Many social media scholars are working on similar avenues, producing research and confronting platform corporations about how they’re not doing a good enough job of making their platforms safe, usable, and welcoming for a diversity of people. This is shared heavy lifting that both our scholarly communities do.

Those are my thoughts. I don’t want to reify a difference that perhaps isn’t actually there – I know lots of games scholars and social media scholars that mingle. However, sometimes we hold our own conferences and have our own talks, classes, and spaces. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – it is, in actuality, fairly essential – but I love to see what we can build when we hold dialogue across these areas and share ideas for better futures of games and social media alike. On that note, Professor Mia Consalvo and I have been working on a 1-day workshop, called Going Live, which brings games studies scholars and social media scholars together to discuss live streaming technologies and cultures. We’ve been putting it together for nearly a year and the big day is almost here, join us if you can!


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