CfP: “Women, LGBTQI & Allies: video games and gender identities”

DiGRA Italia – III – Palermo, 1 June 2018
Women, LGBTQI & Allies: video games and gender identities

“In collaboration with:
Sicilia Queer Filmfest (
CIRQUE – Centro interuniversitario di ricerca queer (
Women in Games Italia (

Hosted by Cantieri Culturali della Zisa, Palermo

Deadline for submission of proposals: 16 April 2018 ( <>)

Research has traditionally associated video games with an audience of male adolescents, acknowledging the industry as being primarily dominated by men. In most video games (albeit with certain exceptions) the main characters are male, often portrayed in hyper-masculine fashion (God of War). On the other hand, female characters have mostly been portrayed as damsels in distress (Super Mario Bros), hypersexualised and objectified figures (Dead or Alive) or as peripheral characters (Grand Theft Auto). Similarly, queer and transgender characters have often been represented in a highly stereotypical manner:  as passive and/or deviant (Birdo from Super Mario Bros; Vendetta, Poison from Final Fight) ?as is the case with dominant representations of non-white, non-Western characters.

The video game industry is mostly a projection of white, straight, male ideologies. Cases like Gamergate have reiterated the issue of an industry and gaming community that mainly caters for males, when it is not openly misogynist, homophobic, bi-phobic, and transphobic. Heteronormative representations of characters in games, constrained in a radical and restrictive woman/man gender binary, reflect structural forms of marginalisation and stereotypes, operating, broadly, at a social and ideological level. Such ideologies originated before the emergence of video games in the public sphere and are, consequently, reflected by and amplified through the games.

Elements of positive change have been emerging in the video game industry, press, and academia over the past few years, through the increasing recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Allies (LGBTQIA) issues. A growing number of games may feature non-stereotypical female characters (The Last of Us) and fluid, non-heteronormative gender identities (Mass Effect), or, indeed, contain elements of reflection on such issues (Dad Dating Simulation, Life is Strange). Through the expansion of the internet, and the mainstream availability of smartphones, alongside more traditional consoles and personal computers, video games have begun to incorporate broader social demographic groups and, consequently, lowered the barriers of access to production and consumption, with the potential for a more inclusive and progressive industry. Games featuring LGBTQIA themes have emerged as a promising tendency. Yet, most of these products seem to have been design!
ed to target niche audiences, or have even attempted to package and commodify LGBTQIA causes rather than representing and empowering diverse individuals within mainstream narratives.

Acknowledging the high cultural and symbolic impact of video games as a social practice and as a potent form of representation, alongside their ability to both reproduce stereotypes and, potentially, affirm marginalised gender identities, the Italian chapter of DiGRA aims to stimulate an all-inclusive, open debate between Italian and international research groups, practitioners, and players. We are inviting researchers, scholars, practitioners, activists, players, artists, and enthusiasts to take part in a research conference on video games and gender, feminist, and LGBTQIA studies. We aim to generate a debate, which will enable the exploration of multiple perspectives and create a shared platform for the critical analysis of gendered representations in games, while addressing the ideological roots of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, and intolerance.

We welcome proposals for abstracts, research papers, and panels, as well as creative contributions such as short films, (video) games, animations, art, and live performance.
The topics of the conference include, but are not limited to:

? Representations of women and LGBTQI identity in the video game industry
? Gendered identities in the press, industry, and academia
? Female, queer and trans characters in the history of video games
? Gender identities and LGBTQI themes in the Italian gaming context
? Sexuality, pornography, and technological experimentations
? Gazes, fetishes, hyper-sexualisation, violence
? Normalisations of audiences and ideologies in games production
? Continuities between video games and other media: cinema, comics, music, and literature
? Intersectionality and relations between LGBTQI representations and ethnic or racial stereotypes
? Perspectives on the study and production of inclusive video games
? Political and legal implications of gender discrimination

Conference chairs: Marco B. Carbone and Ilaria Mariani.
Contributions will be subject to a double blind peer reviewing.

Deadline for submission (500 word abstracts, full papers, and other proposals): 16 April 2018
Date of notification of acceptance: 23 April 2018
Submissions to “

Eugen Pfister

Eugen Pfister leitet das SNF-Ambizione-Forschungsprojekt "Horror-Game-Politics" an der Hochschule der Künste Bern - HKB. Er forscht zu digitalen Spielen als historische Quellen (

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