<span class='p-name'>Ctrl-Alt-Del: Games, Society, Intersectionality, & Toxic Technocultures</span>

Ctrl-Alt-Del: Games, Society, Intersectionality, & Toxic Technocultures

Our campus has a First-Year Experience (FYE) in which faculty propose courses for incoming students while helping to build the skills they’ll need in higher ed. FYE encourages proposals that are innovative, creative, theme-based, or place-based and that enable students to create something lasting. Wherever possible, courses that involve community-based engagement are encouraged.

I have been a member of this committee for the past several years as we help colleagues develop courses that would be of high interest from the instructor’s areas of expertise. I also taught an FYE on slam poetry and hip-hop. I shared most of the course content on this site as part of that experience.

I’ve worked on initiatives like this in the past where we would help students transition from elementary to middle school, middle to high school, or prepare students for college and career. Each of these leaps can be challenging for learners.

This year our institution passed a graduation requirement that indicates that students need coursework in race, equity, and inclusion (REI). To obtain an REI designation for a course, certain criteria must be satisfied. The theme of REI can be interpreted broadly but it must meet the course criteria for the REI requirement and have a US or Global focus.

In this post, I will share materials from the proposal that was recently approved for a class that I’ll teach in the FYE that meets the REI designation. I’m excited to teach this class in the upcoming semesters.

Ctrl-Alt-Del: Games, Society, Intersectionality, & Toxic Technocultures

The course uses #Gamergate, a controversy in gaming culture about the role of women in both the industry and fan culture, to emphasize issues around identity, race, equity, and inclusion. Students will discuss issues of representation and identification in video games from the past and present, while also looking at how gaming culture has evolved and developed since Gamergate. Students will explore and synthesize multiple perspectives about video games and social impact in a series of reflective posts during the semester. Students will explore, build, and connect using a variety of gaming platforms (Twine, Minecraft, Roblox). For the final, students will create a game that will be shared at an eSports festival that will be held online. 

Information Literacy Learning Objective

By the completion of their First-Year Experience course, a student will be able to…

  • use appropriate tools and search strategies for identifying particular types of information specific to the discipline
  • evaluate the relevance, quality, and appropriateness of different sources of information
  • recognize and classify the information contained within a bibliographic citation.
  • access and use information ethically and legally

How will this learning objective be addressed in your course?

From Gamergate to cat memes, Instagram to Pinterest, Reddit AMAs to MMOs — it’s a wild world on the World Wide Web. This course introduces students to online culture and the need to be a good web citizen. Students will learn about how participants online connect, interact and create groups or represent their identity. Students will also discuss and deliberate timely topics and themes in online cultures, such as crowdsourcing, location-based media, social media, identity, privacy, storytelling, expression, surveillance, and artificial intelligence.

Integrative Learning Objective

Faculty will use writing, speech, or media in innovative ways to achieve integrative learning by students.  By the completion of their First-Year Experience course, a student will be able to…

  • Use appropriate critical thinking skills and problem-solving techniques in appropriate disciplinary contexts
  • Make connections across disciplines and/or relevant experiences 

How will this learning objective be addressed in your course?

We’ll explore intersectionality and technology in the context of freedom of speech and expression. Students will explore woke culture, cancel culture, and deplatforming. This course will require that students integrate writing, speech, media, and performance in new and innovative ways as they critique, create, and present their own narratives. They will be asked to utilize appropriate critical thinking skills as they leverage text and other modalities for the purpose of making connections with other gamers and the audience.

Articulate how the course will satisfy the REI criteria 

SLO 1: Students will describe how race is socially constructed and intersects with multiple forms of oppression in US and/or global contexts. 

This course focuses on arguments related to the social impact of video games in contemporary culture. These discussions will examine how certain individuals and groups, for example, women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ are often marginalized or discriminated against in society. 

SLO 2: Students will identify and analyze how social hierarchies manifest in relation to legacies of colonialism, white supremacy, or structural oppression in historical and/or current US and/or global contexts. 

This course will examine opportunities to prepare youth to engage and restory societal power structures for the purpose of personal and social transformation. Opportunities to have tough discussions that society usually never has around issues of racism, religious intolerance, sexual assault, misogyny, and xenophobia, as well as a disregard for science and the environment. Opportunities for educators to educate, empower, and advocate for youth as digitally literate, critically conscious citizens.

 SLO 3: Students will identify and evaluate legal, political, economic, institutional, and/or personal solutions or forms of resistance to racial inequities and discrimination.

This course will discuss the major themes related to networked and participatory media, including Internet technologies, mobile technologies, and other connected platforms. Students will be exposed to various online media formats and functions, as well as recent research and writing on Internet culture, community, ethics, creativity, and social interaction. 

How will REI content be integrated in your FYE course? 

This course will begin with a focus on Gamergate as an opportunity to explore the history of gender in video games. This provides an opportunity to focus on how these circumstances lead to internet bullying, doxing, and trolling in a coordinated effort to consolidate and maintain video games and geek culture as the domain of masculinity and whiteness. We will use the embodied elements of play as well as the logic of games to study social experience, representation, and popular culture, femininities and masculinities, education, economics, literature, and the arts, history, and technology. 

The course will focus on new forms of digital cosmopolitanism by introducing a critical postmodern, or postcolonial framework that allows an investigation of how digital connectivity operates in the everyday lives of individuals. We will identify opportunities to be a “connected migrant” (Diminescu 2008), a new citizen of the world, who is both rooted and routed, and whose global interactions are marked by the use of social networks. This investigation will explore the interrelationships of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, ability, and age from an intersectional perspective.

It is believed that these discussions will help as we promote and resist the negative representation of women and people of color as we transform how and why we play games. 

Please provide a list of 3-5 books and readings that you may use in your course.

  • Day, Felicia (2015). You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost).
  • Doctorow, Cory. (2014). In Real Life.
  • Hurley, Kameron (2016). The Geek Feminist Revolution.
  • Kudich, Erica (2017). Don’t Feed The Trolls. 
  • Niewart, David (2017). Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump.
  • Quinn, Zoe (2017). Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate

Please describe what types of assignments (general or discipline-specific) might be incorporated into your course. Please indicate how these assignments would connect with your course material and the REI.

Found Social Media Essay – A multimodal personal essay comprised entirely of posts you have made to various social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, etc.) written in order to gain a better understanding of the online “self” you have constructed. Alternate: a biographical essay of a public figure.

Editing Wikipedia – When students edit Wikipedia, they show the world what they know, and they show themselves that they know. They’re making a statement not just in their contribution, but by contributing. They’re looking at what they’ve learned and they tell the world: “I know this.” That’s the difference between writing for an assignment and writing for an audience. 

Students will use WikiEdu to research and make edits to a topic of their choosing in the intersection of race, equity, and inclusion. Students make the leap from passive learning to an active expression of knowledge. They rephrase and revise their understanding as they work. They put knowledge into their own words, they make it theirs and pass it on to others. In the end, they’ve shared real knowledge with the world. But they’ve also made that knowledge distinctly their own.

Student-Created Game – For this project, students will work in groups of three or four to develop a game that focuses on a social issue related to the course. 

Your game It might be a personal story, such as the one in Crash Override. It might engage the political process, such as a game that walks users through the outcomes of legislative action. It might be a resource management game that explores, for instance, the economic realities of being a single mother with one child working two part-time minimum wage jobs. The possibilities for types of games and themes to explore are practically limitless.

Your group will develop a proposal for the game in which you will identify the social issue you have chosen to explore and the roles and responsibilities that each group member will play. You will create an annotated bibliography with entries that summarize and evaluate articles on the social issue you have chosen, and which will inform the narrative of your game. These articles do not all have to be scholarly, but they must all be related in significant ways to the theme of your game and be from reputable sources with some expertise. The final step will be the creation of a game that balances the dual goals of educating players while being a playable, compelling game. 


Cover Photo by Fredrick Tendong on Unsplash

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