In this talk, Bonnie Ruberg (they/them) will present work from their new book Video Games Have Always Been Queer, which argues for the queer potential of video games. While popular discussions about LGBTQ issues in video games often focus on big-name, mainstream games that feature LGBTQ characters, like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, Ruberg pushes the concept of queerness in games beyond a matter of representation, exploring how video games can be played, interpreted, and designed queerly. Here, Ruberg demonstrates how the medium of video games itself can—and should—be read as queer. Resisting the common, reductive narrative that games are only now becoming more diverse, Ruberg explores the resonances between video games and queer theory. In Ruberg’s work, critical frameworks from scholars like Eve Sedgwick, Jack Halberstam, and Elizabeth Freeman meet games like Octodad, Burnout: Revenge, and even Pong. Even within a dominant gaming culture that has proved to be openly hostile to those perceived as different, Ruberg contends that queer people have always belonged in video games, because video games have, in fact, always been queer.
Bonnie Ruberg, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of digital games and interactive media in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. Their research explores gender and sexuality in digital media and digital cultures with a focus on queerness and video games. They are the author of Video Games Have Always Been Queer (2019, New York University Press) and the co-editor of Queer Game Studies (2017, University of Minnesota Press). Ruberg is also the co-founder and co-organizer of the annual Queerness and Games Conference. They received their Ph.D. with certification in New Media and Gender and Sexuality Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and served as a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Interactive Media and Games Division at the University of Southern California.