The Queer Games Avant-Garde

How LGBTQ Game Makers Are Reimagining the Medium of Video Games

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 48 illustrations Published: March 2020

Author: Bonnie Ruberg

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Media Studies

In The Queer Games Avant-Garde, Bonnie Ruberg presents twenty interviews with twenty-two queer video game developers whose radical, experimental, vibrant, and deeply queer work is driving a momentous shift in the medium of video games. Speaking with insight and candor about their creative practices as well as their politics and passions, these influential and innovative game makers tell stories about their lives and inspirations, the challenges they face, and the ways they understand their places within the wider terrain of video game culture. Their insights go beyond typical conversations about LGBTQ representation in video games or how to improve “diversity” in digital media. Instead, they explore queer game-making practices, the politics of queer independent video games, how queerness can be expressed as an aesthetic practice, the influence of feminist art on their work, and the future of queer video games and technology. These engaging conversations offer a portrait of an influential community that is subverting and redefining the medium of video games by placing queerness front and center.

Ryan Rose Aceae, Avery Alder, Jimmy Andrews, Santo Aveiro-Ojeda, Aevee Bee, Tonia B******, Mattie Brice, Nicky Case, Naomi Clark, Mo Cohen, Heather Flowers, Nina Freeman, Jerome Hagen, Kat Jones, Jess Marcotte, Andi McClure, Llaura McGee, Seanna Musgrave, Liz Ryerson, Elizabeth Sampat, Loren Schmidt, Sarah Schoemann, Dietrich Squinkifer, Kara Stone, Emilia Yang, Robert Yang


“In their new book, Bonnie Ruberg introduces and documents the provocative, playful, and occasionally weird world of queer game-making. The Queer Games Avant-Garde provides a compelling collection of interviews from many of the designers who dance at the edges of what games can be. This book is recommended reading for designers, artists, researchers, and anyone who takes play seriously.” — Carly A. Kocurek, author of Brenda Laurel: Pioneering Games for Girls

“Bonnie Ruberg and twenty-two incredible game makers give voice to a game revolution. The queer games avant-garde isn't just pushing at the boundaries of the medium, it's exploding what games can be into millions of multi-colored worlds where we can all play! An exuberant and essential exploration of the personal, political, and playful.” — Colleen Macklin, Associate Professor of Media Design at Parsons School of Design

"The queer game makers who operate from marginalised subject positions, making their voices heard in and through games, form an important and timely topic for a book. For a European reader, The Queer Games Avant-Garde offers a fascinating glimpse of contemporary North American realities and the anxieties around doing creative work in the current political climate." — Tanja Sihvonen, Times Higher Education Supplement

"This is a special book. . . . The world of video games is so much bigger and more spectacular than the AAA marketing cycle would have you believe. Ruberg’s conversations are a reminder of the breath of the medium, and also the steps we must take collectively for a healthier, safer, and more vibrant future." — Sharon Ross, Report Door

"Ruberg says that games, like literature, can be read through a queer lens, and perhaps more essentially, played in ways that are queer." — Nina St. Pierre, Bitch

"The book’s 20 chapters run the gamut of queer desire and representation, intimacy (rather than empathy), community, intersectionality, influences, and queering games beyond representation. . . . [I]t’s accessible for those who aren’t scholars including game makers, gamers, games journalists, and anyone interested in the present and future of queer and indie games."

— Naseem Jamnia, Bitch

"Given both its fascinating subject and its approach to the subject, The Queer Games Avant-Garde is a fresh and fascinating peek into an underexplored area of video games, as well as a highly relevant exploration of the ways in which these games both draw from and give back to their creators and players.… All in all, The Queer Games Avant-Garde will provide an interesting and accessible read for a wide range of readers interested in the creation and theorization of video games." — Maria Alberto, Information, Communication & Society


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Bonnie Ruberg is Assistant Professor in the Department of Informatics and the Program in Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and is author of Video Games Have Always Been Queer and coeditor of Queer Game Studies.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Reimagining the Medium of Video Games  1
Part I. Queer People, Queer Desires, Queer Games
1. Dietrich Squinkifer: Nonbinary Characters, Asexuality, and Game Design as Joyful Resistance  33
2. Robert Yang: The Politics and Pleasures of Representing Sex between Men  42
3. Aevee Bee: On Designing for Queer Players and Remaking Autobiographical Truth  51
Part II. Queerness as a Mode of Game-Making
4. Llaura McGee: Leaving Space for Messiness, Complexity, and Chance  63
5. Andi McClure: Algorithms, Accidents, and the Queerness of Abstraction  73
6. Liz Ryerson: Resisting Empathy and Rewriting the Rules of Game Design  81
Part III. Designing Queer Intimacy in Games
7. Jimmy Andrews + Loren Schmidt: Queer Body Physics, Awkwardness as Emotional Realism, and the Challenge of Designing Consent  93
8. Naomi Clark: Disrupting Norms and Critiquing Systems through "Good, Nice Sex with a Tentacle Monster"  102
9. Elizabeth Sampat: Safe Spaces for Queerness and Games against Suffering  113
Part IV. The Legacy of Feminist Performance Art in Queer Games
10. Kara Stone: Softness, Strength, and Danger in Games about Mental Health and Healing  125
11. Mattie Brice: Radical Play through Vulnerability  134
12. Seanna Musgrave: "Touchy-Feely" Virtual Reality and Reclaiming the Trans Body  143
Part V. Intersectional Perspectives in/on Queer Games
13. Tonia B****** + Emilia Yang: Making Games about Queer Women of Color by Queer Women of Color  153
14. Nicky Case: Playable Politics and Interactivity for Understanding  162
15. Nina Freeman: More Than Just "the Women Who Make Sex Games"  171
Part VI. Analog Games: Exploreing Queerness Through Non-Digital Play
16. Avery Alder: Queer Storytelling and the Mechanics of Desire  183
17. Kat Jones: Bisexuality, Latina Identity, and the Power of Physical Presence  192
Part VII. Making Queer Games, Queer Change, and Queer Community
18. Mo Cohen: On Self-Care, Funding, and Other Advice for Aspiring Queer Indie Game Makers  205
19. Jerome Hagan: Are Queer Games Bringing "Diversity" to Mainstream Industry?  215
20. Sarah Schoemann: The Power of Community Organizing  223
Afterword. The Future of the Queer Games Avant-Garde  233
Appendix. Queer Indie Games to Play at Home or in the Classroom  245
Notes  257
Bibliography  265
Index  271
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner of the 2021 Stonewall Book Award in non-fiction from the American Library Association

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