Reading, Writing, Lexigraphing

Active Passivity as Queer Play in Walking Simulators

  • Chloe Anna Milligan
  • Kira Bohunicky


In this article, we address the histories and influences of reading and writing within the genre of digital games called “walking simulators.” Reading is framed as an activity separate from (and, sometimes, incompatible with) the set of actions afforded to players in most game genres. Walking simulators, on the other hand, converge the act of reading and walking in complex ways that expose the playful but putatively inactive action of reading as a disruptive queering. This queering subverts the standard expectation that to count as “player” (and for walking simulatorsto count as games) one must act and produce. We call this subversion “lexigraphing,”our repurposed verb form of Garrett Stewart’s (2006) neologism “lexigraph,” which refers to paintings of written text. Lexigraphing, applied to digital games, describes the seemingly passive action of walking in a gamespace, and reading its texts, as a recursive act of writing reading. We argue that the disruptive “passivity” of lexigraphing operates as a form of queering gamespace, citing J. Jack Halberstam’s (2011) rejection of a world that is constantly doing, acting, and producing. We apply lexigraphing to walking simulators through the lens of queer game studiesas articulated by Bonnie Ruberg and Adrienne Shaw (2017), which invites us to reject limited conceptions of gamic action and participate in a more playful queering. Reading “queer”as a verb is crucial to understanding the feminist and queer actions that walking simulators welcome. With our own verb, lexigraphing, we re-articulate the active passivity of reading-as-writing in walking simulators.


August 26, 2019