[EXTENDED] CFP // Games and Literary Theory Collection

We are soliciting proposals for a collection of essays at the intersection of game studies and literary theory.

This coming year will mark the fourth meeting of the International Conference Series on Games and Literary Theory at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. Having hosted the previous two meetings, we have witnessed a rich diversity of scholarship claiming this interdisciplinary field. Yet, we have also noted in the breadth of approaches a lack of a shared disciplinary history or critical archive.

To facilitate the growth and formation of this emerging field, we are putting together a collection of essays to act as a landmark and jumping off point for further scholarship. It will establish a disciplinary history, represent the range of approaches currently constituting the field, and offer a foundation for scholars looking to join the discussion.

We are interested in proposals that consider the interaction of games and literary theory in these and other potential areas:

  • ontology and epistemology
  • methodology and theory
  • meaning-making, hermeneutics, reception
  • terminology and its adaptations
  • comparisons of structures or techniques
  • transmedia storytelling and alternative reality games
  • cultural criticism and history

We are currently working with a university press to publish this collection. They have asked that we collect abstracts for inclusion in a formal proposal. To this end, we are requesting 500-word abstracts to be sent to twelsh@loyno.edu (subject heading “GamesLit Book”) by July 15 August 15. We will make selections and will request full essays (3500-5000 words) by September 15 October 15.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your thoughtful proposals.

Timothy Welsh, Loyola University New Orleans
Joyce Goggin, Universiteit van Amsterdam

P(l)aying for a Free Gold Jet

On June 10th, 2015, Rockstar Games release fresh downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto V title, Ill-Gotten Gains. The Ill-Gotten Gains DLC included the most expensive in-game items to date. Emblematic of the exorbitant prices was the Luxor Deluxe, a gold-plated version of the Luxor jet, which sold for $10M, 8.35M more than the standard Luxor.


The ostensible reason for the release of such expensive materials was to rebalance the cost of in-game items after the release of the previous DLC update, which introduced the much anticipated Heists game mode. Heists offer the greatest payouts for any single mission in GTAV. The final mission in the Pacific Standard Job offers a potential payout of a whopping $1.25M for completing the mission on Hard Mode to be divided among the 4 participants. Even with Heist’s remarkable payouts, the cost in-game currency of the Ill-Gotten Gains DLC represented a significant time investment. Assuming an even split of the final payout, it would take 23 runs of the entire Pacific Standard Heist to be able to afford the Luxor Deluxe’s 10 million dollar pricetag. Last week a few crew members and I timed a run through all of the missions of the Pacific Standard Heist–not going for speed, just to see how long it takes–it came out to around two hours and thirty minutes. 23 runs at 2.5 hours per run would total 57.5 hours. At that pace, earning a Luxor Deluxe would require playing just about the entire playtime of Dragon Age: Origins or a full standard work week and half of another.

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Do Cyborgs Dream of the Perfect Pump?

During November 2014, Digital Extremes (DE) ran a charity promotion through their popular free-to-play game Warframe (2012) supporting the Movember Foundation. The Movember Foundation has gained some notoriety recently for asking supporters to grow a moustache during the month of November–hence Mo(ustache)-vember–in order to raise awareness for men’s health issues. For DE’s “Moframe,” as they called it, players could adorn their in-game avatars with moustaches, with new and more elaborate versions unlocked as the promotion reached donation goals. To announce the event, publicize received donations, and showcase the unlockable moustaches, DE created a Moframe website featuring two playable avatars donning ‘staches: Excalibur and Mag. While there is no surprise that Excalibur, the first warframe and posterchild of the game, appears on the site, Mag’s presence is somewhat unexpected. The Mag avatar is assigned female, and yet the site shows her trying on an assortment of facial hair (see Figure 1).

Warframe's Movember site
Figure 1. Moframe website featuring Mag

During the Moframe promotion, DE allowed female-assigned warframes as well as the male-assigned to put on the Movember moustaches. Of course, DE would not want to suggest that only frames marked as male could participate in Movember or that men’s health is only a male issue. In fact, putting a moustache on Mag and other female-assigned frames highlights the obvious and awkward bias of Movember itself. I point it out here because Warframe’s Movember promotion exemplifies the complexity and slipperiness of gender in Warframe’s posthuman environment.

The discussion of gender in videogames has tended to focus on representation (Sarkeesian, 2014; Cassell and Jenkins, 2000). Though there is plenty to say about gendered tropes in Warframe, representational signifiers circulate through the game in unexpected ways. The game’s customization options and narrative setting offer the possibility and flexibility for hybrid configurations that undermine established tropes. And yet, these configurations are articulated through a persistent gender binary. What I want to suggest is that playing Warframe thus reflects back on or, rather, enacts the condition of its players, whose participation in digital culture allows play with and between gendered signifiers though never without the residual binary structure.

***For more, please check out Well-Played, vol.5, iss. 1.***