In my quest to mow through the books I have about games, the turn has come for James Paul Gee’s What Videogames Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. I’m about a hundred pages in in, and I’m getting quite a bit of useful and interesting information out of this book. I find it really fascinating that Gee, in his commentary around gender and games which he touches on very briefly, can not see that the lack of women participating in the gaming culture might be related to the adverse learning conditions he himself is talking about later in the book.
I’m not sure if it is because Gee himself is a privileged person – apart from him being a self described baby boomer and late blooming gamer I only know he’s a man – or if it is because Gee lacks insight into how gaming culture and games in general treat girls and women who try to participate.
The theories that Gee presents around gaming and learning are in most cases about identity and acceptance for inhabiting that identity.
I’m curious to see if Gee in his book will even approach the topic of epistemic injustice and the lack of access to games and gaming that is not only specific to women and other marginalized groups, but also to socio-economically weak areas around the world who do not have access to games and gaming for economical reasons.
I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that gaming and and games is a middle to upper class pastime and that the income to sustain a gaming habit os on the mid to high range.
Consoles and computers are expensive, computers more so now that cryptocurrency and blockchains has driven the cost of graphics cards up.
As an industry I believe we’re just as reluctant to start catering to a lower end PC crowd as we are to changing the gaming culture.
Gee’s theories, in other words, have to be read with intersectional lenses, because Gee himself does not really touch on any of the difficulties that non-privileged and marginalized people will run into when it comes to computer games and learning.
It is possible that Gee will return to the subject and point out the issues that I’ve outlined, but it hasn’t happened yet.
My feeling is that Gee is in the “computer games are good” camp and that he’s unwilling or unable to look at games through the lens of intersectionality, or that he has simply chosen to focus on the positive aspects of gaming and learning.
Perhaps I’m being too hard on Gee and perhaps I’m expecting too much from all these male authors writing about games in different contexts, but I do find it curious that many of them are unable to, or perhaps more accurately seem to be unable to apply their theories to an intersectional or gendered perspective.
Maybe it’s easier to believe that girls and women and other marginalized groups are kept out of games, not because of issues with game development, gaming companies, gaming culture or the content of games, but because of cultural or, worse, biological reasons.
As always it is also possible that I’m reading too much into a book I have yet to finish.
I do find it concerning, though, how one-eyed most of the books I’ve read so far seem to be when it comes to the impact of content and culture around the gaming habits of marginalized people. Is privilege really that blinding?
I’m sure I have reason to return to Gee’s book and talk more about theories of literacy, semiotic spaces and learning, because despite my complaints this book is really interesting and it sheds a lot of light on issues that I’ve been thinking about fo a long time. I’m not entirely certain that my application of Gee’s theory will be to everyone’s liking though. Then again, when have I ever cared what people think about me?