Bonnie Ruberg Published in Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds

03 Nov, 2017

Bonnie Ruberg Published in Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds

Bonnie Ruberg, BCNM alum and current Assistant Professor of Digital Media & Games at UC Irvine, has been published in the 9th Volume of Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds. Their research and teaching focuses on sexuality and gender in digital media and digital cultures, with a focus on LGBTQ issues and video games; their published articles cover sex, gender, and technology. Ruberg is also co-editor of Queer Game Studies and lead organizer and co-founder of the annual Queerness and Games Conference.

In Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, their paper "Permalife: Video games and the queerness of living" delves into the realm of avant-garde games, queer theory, and the concepts of permalife (and permadeath). Their abstract is below:

The mechanic of 'permadeath' has recently garnered increased interest among video game players, designers and scholars. Yet it is equally critical, in talking about death in video games, to talk about life. Just as every video game systemises dying, it also systemises living. The social meaning contained within these systems can be termed the biopolitics and necropolitics of video games. Indeed, the renaissance of permadeath is occurring alongside the emergence of a second mechanic: permalife. In contrast to permadeath games, where players can die only once, permalife games make it impossible for players to die. While there are many video games that lack an official death state, permalife games set themselves apart by making the inability to die a central theme and/or core gameplay mechanic. In contrast to permadeath games, permalife games are primarily being designed by LGBTQ indie game-makers.

It is no coincidence that queer designers are exploring biopolitical game systems structured around permalife. For queer subjects today, and particularly those operating within the reactionary vitriol of games culture, permanent living represents a particularly potent trope for expressing both hopes and concerns about existence in the face of an uncertain future. To demonstrate the varied expressions and meanings of permalife mechanics, this article looks at three works from the contemporary queer games avant-garde: Dietrich ‘Squinky’ Squinkifer’s Quing’s Quest VII: The Death of Videogames! (2014), Mattie Brice’s Mainichi (2012) and Anna Anthropy’s Queers in Love at the End of the World (2013). Together, these games demonstrate how permalife operates in a space of contradiction – between life and death, futurity and stagnation, optimism and resistance – that reflects the complexities and challenges of real LGBTQ lives. In this way, permalife creates space for alternative modes of living in video games, challenging teleological narratives of temporal and affective progress as articulated by queer theorists like Elizabeth Freeman and Sara Ahmed. Permalife, as seen through queer games, also stands as a challenge to look to interactive systems and not just character representation as important sites of identity, desire and political meaning in video games.

Purchase and read their full article here.