Narrativized re-performances of gameplay: witch-players and methodological resistance in game studies

Jennings, Stephanie
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Search, Patricia
Suckling, Maurice
Nideffer, Robert
Deery, June
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Communication and rhetoric
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The primary purpose of this dissertation is to develop a hybrid methodology for textual studies of videogames. At its core is a reconceptualization of gameplay, a term with industry origins that refers to players’ engagements with videogames, but that has served to maintain numerous, gendered binaries prevalent in game studies scholarship. Against these trends, I argue that the textual meanings of gameplay emerge from the dynamic, assembled agencies of videogame technologies, designed gameworlds, and player subjectivities. As a basis for comprehending gameplay, I examine research that characterizes this composite activity as cyborgian, alongside feminist research in which cyborgs exemplify tensions between structural oppressions and agentic subjectivities. However, by explicating subversive feminine gameplay performances that operate simultaneously within and against videogames, I shift cyborgian sensibilities to posit the figure of the witch-player. This formulation at once captures the uptake of witches in contemporary popular culture that challenge gender and sexual norms, while also interrogating historical roots in misogyny and racism that have served the spread of capitalism and settler-colonialism. Further, it intervenes in game studies research by foregrounding feminine gameplay performances. To read gameplay, I construct a methodology that combines textual analysis, autoethnography, and assemblage theories. Demonstrating its use, I chronicle my resistant, feminine gameplay in various horror videogames, providing a condensed genre study throughout these analyses.
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Dept. of Communication and Media
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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