Social Justice and Gaming: A Blog Carnival Roundup



Text reads "social justice and gaming" in blue over a shadowed black gaming controllerIn our introduction to the Social Justice and Gaming blog carnival, Heather Lang and I noted that gaming can be a fabulous tool for drawing attention to the social construction of identity. The contributors to this carnival all use gaming as a tool to explore that social construction in unique and fascinating ways, from LARP as a way to build empathy to engaging students in game design themselves as a way to explore gender identity. Below you’ll find a roundup of the posts in the series. Consider these posts the beginning of a conversation that will continue past the end of the blog carnival, and feel free to engage with these ideas via the comments, Twitter (@SweetlandDRC), or Facebook.

Jason Custer kicks off the blog carnival with the first post in the series, “Walking Black: Examining Telltale’s The Walking Dead as a Racialized Pedagogical Zone.” In his blog, Custer explores the ways The Walking Dead video game “allows players to participate in the construction of black masculinity instead of simply consuming it,” in stark contrast to many other popular video games that allow players to play a black character. Custer plays through the game and reflects on his reaction as a player as he was forced, through game play, to experience and acknowledge racism.

In “Playwriting for the Classroom: Actively Constructing Identity with The Sims 3,“ Jonathan Lee uses The Sims character creator in the classroom as a way to encourage students to consider how identity is constructed. He argues that “video games can be creatively used as lens to deploy social critiques and re-imagine pedagogical strategies.” Custer’s post includes a detailed description of the exercise as he deployed it in his classroom as well as student responses.

Taking a turn toward face-to-face gaming, Maury Brown and Ben Morrow explore the pedagogical implications of Live Action Role Play (LARP) in their collaborative post, “Building Empathy and Empowering Others Through Live-Action Role Play.” Because LARP “invites participants to take on another persona and experience the game from the perspective of someone other than one’s self, it offers a unique opportunity to empathize with others and consider issues of social justice.” Brown and Morrow emphasize the importance of designing games that allow choice and empathy to flourish and to be wary of those games which have only meaningful interactions that encourage violence and dominance.

Matthew Vetter and Sarah Einstein asked their students to develop a game using Twine as part of an assignment for a gender studies course. They discuss the assignment and the student response in “Women Writing in Digital Spaces: Engaging #Gamergate and Twine in the Gender Studies-Composition Course.” The authors note that the game was an “excellent way for us to engage gender politics, identity, and narrative in the writing classroom, especially as part of a larger curricular unit that examined the politics of #Gamergate, videogames, and women writing in digital spaces.”

Ohio State PhD students Andrew Smart and James Harris, in response to “a growing interest in talking about digital and interactive storytelling alongside a fascination with technology and digital culture” discuss their coordination of a gaming a discussion series in “Rhetoric, Politics, and Gaming: Building Collaborative Spaces for Game Studies.” Like a book club, but for video games, the series invites students and faculty to play games together and then engage in discussion.

In the final post in our series, “Backless Dresses and Walking Shirtless Scenes: Gender Politics in Castlevania”, Thomas Bullington explores gender in the video game series and argues for how “the Castlevania series can present teachers with a compelling case study to demonstrate the systemic nature of GamerGate in the classroom.” Bullington sees the game series as a way to demonstrate some of “the anxieties GamerGate claims to react against,” and he encourages teachers to use the series to help students understand how games are both reactions to politics and embodiments of them.

In addition to these traditional blog contributions, we invited folks to talk about the work that they’re doing with gaming and social justice in the classroom in both a Google Hangout on Air and a #DRCchat via Twitter. Be sure to check out highlights for both. We see these blog carnival posts as an invitation to join a conversation already taking place surrounding the implications of gaming both in the classroom and as a way to interact with and make sense of the non-digital world. We’d love to hear from you – how do you use gaming in your classroom? How does gaming come into your scholarly work? Are you not yet using gaming but curious to know more? Drop us a line in the comments.


  • Paula M Miller

    Paula is a PhD graduate fellow at The Ohio State University studying rhetoric, composition, and literacy. Her research interests lie at the intersection of writing centers and multiliteracies. You can visit her online at

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