The Playful Text: Critical Approaches to Video Games

Posted on 4/7/2014 9:09:57 AM

The Department of English and the Center for Digital Humanities and Culture are pleased to announce a three-part colloquium series: The Playful Text: Critical Perspectives On Video Games. The series is organized by English Literature and Criticism PhD student Chih-Lung “Jeff” Kung and English Department faculty member Mike Sell.

Faculty, staff, and students are invited to explore video games as an important part of our contemporary culture and as a “playful text,” a form of art that uses narrative, metaphor, character, dialogue, and allusions to other literary texts to create powerful experiences and high-impact statements about who we are and who we might be.

Colloquium 1: “Playing Under the Influence of Whiteness”

  • April 15, 3:30–4:30 p.m.
  • Stabley Library, Room 201

Professor Mike Sell explores the ideological dimensions of game design, whiteness, and the pleasures of the first-person shooter in Bioshock Infinite. Regarded as one of the best releases of 2013, the game has been celebrated for its head-on confrontation with racism, imperialism, and the myth of Manifest Destiny, but also criticized for its deeply flawed story and design. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Colloquium 2: “Recycle, Reuse, Redemption: Red Dead Redemption’s Gameplay And Ecocriticism”

  • April 17, 5:00–6:00 p.m.
  • Stabley Library, Room 201

Join PHD candidate Brandon Galm as he roams RockStar Games’ Red Dead Redemption armed with Ecocritical Theory. This highly celebrated open-world game takes place in a Wild West landscape undergoing radical social, political, and environmental change. The player must not only decide exactly how “civilized” to act but, just as importantly, how many animals she will kill and how many plants she will cut down. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Colloquium 3: “Playing With Race and History: Interactive Fiction”

  • April 22, 3:30–4:30 p.m.
  • Stabley Library, Room 201

PhD candidate Chih-Lung “Jeff” Kung will lead a workshop play-session and discussion of Aaron Reed’s Maybe Make Some Change, an award-winning, Web-based, interactive fiction based on the Maywand District killings in Afghanistan. He will explore various ways Maybe Make Some Change challenges the conventions of interactive fiction (a.k.a. text-adventure) to critique the War on Terror and focus our attention on the ways we think about U.S. soldiers’ experiences in the war. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Questions? Contact Professor Mike Sell at

Department of English