Call for Papers: 'Negotiating Gamer Identities' Special Issue

October 5, 2015

The Press Start Journal invites the submission of analyses and reflections regarding the recent controversies surrounding the plurality of players, communities of play, and perceived gamer culture (in terms of gender, race, sexuality, class, #gamergate, etc.), as part of a special issue on negotiating gamer identities. Through this special issue, Press Start aims to allow undergraduate students, graduate students, and PhD candidates to contribute to this timely site of discourse.

Players, gamers or #gamers?

The issue of identity in games has long been a subject of studies regarding games and players. Studies observing the prevalence of male identification in digital play are at least as old as Sara Kiesler et al.’s “2nd-Class Citizens” (1983); and analyses of the oversexualization of women have appeared since Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkin’s From Barbie to Mortal Kombat (1998). Later, studies regarding race, sexuality and class have followed suit (cf. Leonard, 2006; Hitchens, 2011; Shaw, 2014). Indeed, much scholarship suggests a split between the overrepresentation of white, male, cis-gendered heterosexual player identities within games; and the actual diverse player base that supports and plays these games.

If gamer culture is perhaps unfairly seen as the site of marginalized, white men (cf. Kowert & Oldmeadow, 2012), recent tension has arisen around the right to claim gamer identity. Attempts to reclaim gamer culture as a place for women, non-whites, transgender people and others have been downplayed and attacked by vocal gamer communities as ‘social justice activism,’ poor scholarship or proof of a secret feminist conspiracy. Most recognizably, this vocal minority of gamers have gathered under the #gamergate hashtag.

With the initial responses of perceived leftist game journalists, academics and #gamergaters out of the way, it is time for analyses that do not dogmatically take sides nor attempt to moralize the situation without critical engagement. This special issue aims to offer a place for all related research. Some suggestions include:

  • What does the question of identity mean for ‘gamer culture,’ and how does it relate to social context, media content and the game industry’s production cultures?

  • What can be made of the increased representation of ‘marginalized’ voices through the proliferation of independent production and platforms such as Steam and Twine?

  • Is such a classification as ‘gamer culture’ (whether monolithic, hegemonic or pluralistic) a productive identifier, in comparison to ‘reader cultures’ or ‘movie-goers’?

  • What to make of #gamergate’s professed criticism of existing academic game studies organizations (such as DiGRA); and related initiatives to start up alternative, positivist (or non-activist), venues for game analysis? Which epistemologies and politics form the basis for these criticisms and what would an alternative entail?

  • What roles should communities, game designers, game journalists and academics play; and how do these roles interact and overlap?

The editors of Press Start are open to any academic work that relates to this special issue; we encourage students and PhD candidates – from ‘SJW’ to ‘#gator’ – to submit work that they have produced as part of their studies or otherwise, provided that it meets the editorial guidelines for the journal. Research articles for this issue are expected to be between 3000 and 6000 words in length, but there are opportunities for submitting shorter pieces of work. All submissions will be subjected to double-blind peer review, so make sure your submission is sufficiently anonymized.

The deadline for submissions to this special issue is 1 May 2016.

Full details of the section policies, and the editorial process, may be found on the journal website:

If you are unsure which section is the best fit for your work (or have any other queries), please post a question on the Facebook group (, where a member of our friendly and knowledgeable Editorial Board will get back to you, or email the editor directly (

Works cited:

Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (1998). From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. Cambridge, MA: MIT press.

Hitchens, M. (2011). A Survey of First-person Shooters and their Avatars. Game Studies, 11(3).

Kiesler, S., Sproull, L., & Eccles, J. S. (1983). 2nd-Class Citizens. Psychology Today, 17(3): 40.

Kowert, R., & Oldmeadow, J. (2012). The Stereotype of Online Gamers: new characterization or recycled prototype. In Proceedings of DiGRA Nordic 2012 Conference: Local and Global – Games in Culture and Society.

Leonard, D. J. (2006). Not a Hater, Just Keepin' It Real: the importance of race-and gender-based game studies. Games and Culture, 1(1): 83-88.

Shaw, A. (2014). Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.