[NetBehaviour] Feminism, Video Games and Academics (also, lesbianism).

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Feb 18 11:28:05 CET 2008

Feminism, Video Games and Academics (also, lesbianism).

Being a Masters student means I have to churn out a lot of papers so my 
supervisors have something to read, but I do have a tremendous amount of 
freedom in choosing what it is I want to write about. What follows below 
is probably one of the strangest things I've ever turned in to the 
English department - most of you will probably have heard the whole 
"Portal is for lesbians" shenanigans and how that game is something of a 
feminist oddity in a medium traditionally steeped in testosterone. Well, 
here is my attempt to talk about it (and Half-Life 2) in an academic 
context because a) I thought it would at least be fun and original and 
b) I'd like to see games taken more seriously from a literary and 
academic standpoint. This is my humble attempt. It's called "How 
Thinking With Portals Changes Everything: Half-Life 2, Portal, and 
Feminist Literary Theory in Video Games" and went over rather well in 
with my lecturer - be warned though, it's written for an audience who 
probably have never played a video game in their lives, so a lot of it 
won't be new to seasoned gamers.

The full text is below, and some of the referencing isn't formatted 
correctly so please bear with me (The footnotes are missing, I shall 
stick them in soon). Thanks are due to those fine folk at Valve for 
making such an awesome game, my lecturer for not rejecting it out of 
hand and Kieron Gillen, who actually said a kind word about it.


As I begin this discussion I am painfully aware that my area of inquiry 
is something akin to an unexplored jungle. Video games have never been 
considered serious scholarly material up until the last half-decade or 
so, and the lack of relevant academia is immediately apparent and 
daunting when compared to the cornucopia of research available on even 
the obscurest regions of other areas in literature and film. So by way 
of a preamble I feel it necessary to state why video games are worthy of 
scholarly attention and why they may be a potentially fruitful area of 
discourse in my chosen area of literary theory.

Video games are a particularly young medium, the industry as we know it 
being only approximately 30 years old. It has come a tremendously long 
way in such a short time. However I believe it is only within the last 
decade (and particularly the last several years) that technological 
advancements have reached the point that game developers now have an 
ability and freedom to create that matches their contemporaries in the 
medium games have traditionally drawn most inspiration from - film. The 
Western video game industry now rivals Hollywood film output in terms of 
sales, marketing and appeal, while the budget and resources of AAA games 
titles is now measured in millions.


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