Archive for the ‘GAMES, ABILITY AND DISABILITY’ Category

DiGRA 2018 Turin July 25-28

July 5, 2018

Body Count   
Diane Carr UCL IOE University of London
Ability, bodies, metaphor, materialization, disability, happiness

“Happiness is expected to reside in certain places, those that approximate the taken-for-granted features of normality” (Ahmed, 2007/8 p 9).

The purpose of this presentation is to share ongoing work on the representation of bodies in games, with a particular focus on representations of ability and disability (Carr 2014, 2017). I will present two aspects of this work, both of which involve questions about the body, quantification, status and attainment. The first focuses on metaphor. The second examines the idea of the protagonist’s body as a projectile that is processed through performance in a context where goals conflate happiness (of a kind) with achievement and agency, and disability with loss, threat and obstruction. The title of the presentation reflects an interest in the relationship between ability and disability, as well as the idea that some bodies ‘naturally’ count more than others.

The work on metaphor is based on Mitchell and Snyder’s account of disability as ‘narrative prosthesis’ (2000). Mitchell and Snyder discuss the ways in which disability materializes (or embodies) key themes within literary texts. Their work has been referenced in game studies literature (e.g. Gibbons 2015; Carr 2013) but its applicability is yet to be explored in depth. When applied to games it’s clear that there’s a parallel materialization taking place: the bodies on screen feature impairments that materialize the game-as-fiction’s themes, while the game-as-played materializes versions of ability (through measuring and scoring, etc.). The idea of ludic and narrative prosthesis is explored with reference to the traumatized protagonist and the dystopian version of Prague offered by the most recent game in the Deus Ex series (Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, 2016). This work on disability and ability in games has raised questions about positioning, knowing, sorting, scoring and separating. It involves reflecting on the ‘normate’ body in games; its status and its instability, and thinking about intersectionality (gender, disability and migrant identity). In addition to Mitchell and Snyder’s work on metaphor and disability, the analysis is informed by Thomson on the normate (1997); Lupton (2016) and Rose (2001) on quantification and bodies, Schrape (2014) on governmentality and gamification, and Kumari Campbell (2008) on ableism).

Part two of the presentation continues to focus on representations of ability and disability, this time through an engagement with literature that combines disability histories with contemporary happiness studies, starting with Soderfeldt and Verstraete’s ‘From Comparison to Indices: A disability perspective on the history of happiness’ (2013). Their analysis raises questions about the framing of goal attainment, ability and happiness as synonymous. They identify various historical discourses within which disability is constructed as incompatible with productivity, hence incompatible with happiness. Obviously, if “happiness is found where it is expected to be” (Ahmed, 2007/8 p 9), and if disability is framed as ‘naturally’ antipathetic to goal attainment or happiness or agency, there are serious implications for those of us who identify as disabled. Perhaps this is why Halberstam’s suggestion that it’s time to “poke holes in the toxic positivity of contemporary life” is so appealing (Halberstam 2011 p 3). Games, through their messy assemblage of fiction, rules, goals and performance, manage to accommodate what Soderfeldt and Verstraete (citing Ahmed) describe as competing views on happiness – by associating happiness with inherent attributes and goal attainment, dedication and hard work. The analysis will focus on Deus Ex’s protagonist Adam Jensen. The implications will be explored with reference to Snyder and Mitchell’s work on ability and able bodies, happiness and hygiene (2006).


This work is being undertaken with the support of the AHRC as part of a large collaborative, interdisciplinary project, ‘Disability and Community: Dis/engagement, Dis/enfranchisement, Dis/parity and Dissent’ (2016-2020). A journal length version of the analysis of metaphor in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has been accepted for a JLCDS special issue on the Intersections of Disability and Science Fiction, as “Bodies that Count:  Augmentation and Knowledge in a Science Fiction Game” (ed.s K. Allan and R. Cheyne, in press 2019).


Ahmed, S. (2007/8) ‘The Happiness Turn’ in New Formations 63, pp 7-14
Carr, D. (2013) ‘Bodies, Augmentation and Disability in Dead Space and Deus Ex: Human Revolution’, Proceedings of FROG 2013, Vienna, Sept 27-28th Context Matters! K. Mitgutsch, S. Huber, J.Wimmer, M. G. Wagner, H. Rosenstingl (Eds.) Vienna. New Academic Press Org. 2013, pp 31-41
Carr, D (2014) ‘Ability, Disability and Dead Space’. Game Studies. Vol 14 Issue 2 December 2014
Carr, D. (2017) ‘Methodology, Representation, and Games’ for Games and Culture (‘online first’ version).
Gibbons, S. (2015) ‘Disability, Neurological Diversity, and Inclusive Play: An Examination of the Social and Political Aspects of the Relationship between Disability and Games’ in Loading… The Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association Vol 9(14) pp 25-39
Halberstam, J. (2011) The Queer Art of Failure. Durham and London: Duke University Press
Kumari Campbell, F. (2008) ‘Refusing Able(ness): A Preliminary Conversation about Ableism’ M/C Journal, vol 11, no 3.
Lupton, D. (2016) The Quantified Self. Cambridge: Polity.
Mitchell, D. T. and S. L. Snyder (2000) Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the dependencies of discourse. University of Michigan Press
Rose, N. (2001) ‘The Politics of Life Itself’ in Theory, Culture & Society. Vol 18 (6) pp 1-30
Schrape, N. (2014) ‘Gamification and Governmentality’ in Rethinking Gamification. M.Fuchs, S.Fizek, P.Ruffino, N.Schrape. Meson Press pp 21-46
Snyder, S and Mitchell, D (2006) Cultural Locations of Disability London: University of Chicago Press
Thomson, R. G. (1997) Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press.


Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Dev. Eidos Montreal, Publ. Square Enix (2016)



CFP The Gamification of Society – When games rule

May 31, 2018

The Gamification of Society When games rule   December 6th-7th, 2018 Paris – Maison de la recherche Université de la Sorbonne nouvelle

Proposals must be 5,000 characters long and be submitted to and before Friday, June 1st  2018 Following two anonymous evaluations, responses will be sent mid-July, 2018.

Gamification – or “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts,” (Deterding et al., 2011) – originates especially from two separate streams of research. One of these streams is game theory, which derives from the humanities and social and human sciences (SHS); the second is applied design research, which draws extensively from video games and posits game design as conducive to commitment, individual and collective development, and creativity. Although the first stream of research contributes to the development of the second, social and human sciences have yet to really embrace, critique and analyze the practices associated with gamification, even though gamification can be applied to an increasing number of areas. Indeed, gamified practices are implemented in the health care sector, in schools, in the workplace, in the media, in our civic lives, in our relationships and in quantified self-tracking, and yet research on gamification often focuses only on physical objects – “serious games”, i.e. simulations to train health care or military personnel, educational innovations, games in the workplace, etc. – rather than the mentality behind it, either in terms of “empowerment” or as the “new  capitalist mindset”. The aim of this symposium on “The Gamification of Society” is to gather researchers studying gamification in various areas: health care, education, civic life, work and social relations, including individual scoring systems to track people’s bodies, social lives and behaviors (particularly their digital behavior), among many others. While questioning the social implications of gamification and of the normalization of game formats in non-game practices, an effort must be made to avoid the pitfalls of segmenting the topic. Gaming as a “model” (game design) and as an “interface” (fulfilling a social function) should be examined beyond simply listing its areas of application. Case studies will thus be incorporated into the approach to the key themes, while making sure that links are created with the research that has been conducted on games within the humanities and social and human sciences.   Five key themes will be the focus of our shared reflection: the historical perspective of gamification, a questioning of the concept, the economic issues at hand, the idea of “gamified consciousness” and the underlying rhetorics of gamification.

  • The historical perspective of gamification

If we consider gamification as it is commonly understood, i.e. as a transposition of game design elements into non-game contexts, it stands to reason that the historical perspective could contribute significantly to the research on gamification, ranging from the early modern period (Belmas, 2006), which offers many examples in both education and the world of work, to the 19th century, which provides many opportunities to prove the sociohistorical importance of the gamification process, and finally to the 20th century, which saw a multiplication of these processes. This part of the symposium will therefore consist of contributions showing the social origins of past tools and practices, in order to learn more about the ambiguous relationship between game and non-game environments. This could help prevent the anachronistic approach of some current research, which tends to regard gamification as a recent “invention”. As a result, the specificities of current processes, such as the development of technology and its new applications in many areas of everyday life, should be more easily defined.

  • Game mechanics

Gamification as a game design serving as a template for other activities has been judged as being a marketing gimmick, a kind of “pointification” (Bogost, 2014; Robertson, 2010). However, it would be inaccurate to reduce the game design elements used in gamification to a simple matter of points, badges and other means of indicating level and progress. Indeed, even though current research mainly concerns digital practices inspired by game design, gamification stakeholders – producers and designers – work to create hybrid systems that mix digital and non-digital aspects. Regarding research, many conceptual leads to define the various game mechanics on which gamification is based are provided by the major SHS papers on fiction (Schaeffer, 1999), framing (Bateson, 1977; Goffman, 1991), role theory (Linton, 1936; Mead, 1934) and rituals (Schechner & Schuman, 1976; Turner, 1982), as well as more recent research papers broaching these same notions, in addition to those focusing specifically on games (notably Winnicott, 1971, Henriot, 1989 or Brougère, 2005, and Caïra, 2007 and 2011) and video games (Triclot, 2011). As such, these theories and research findings are full of tools and concepts that allow for a less “technical” approach to gamification practices and phenomena, and may therefore surpass studies that support a single functionalist interpretation of such systems, often aimed at assessing their “efficiency”. They invite us to question the social, cultural, ethical and political dimensions which are, literally, at play, and to question the place of those who are persuaded or encouraged to play these creations. Since there can be no game without players, are the players simply another mechanic in the game? Can they be afforded space to reclaim, invent and select their own experiences?

  • The economics of knowledge and attention

Knowledge-based economies are essentially production and service sectors based in knowledge-intensive activities (KIA). KIA can usually be identified using indicators on knowledge production and management, the employment rate of higher educated workers and the level of use of modern information technologies. (Foray, 2009) The growing complexity of knowledge creation processes paved the way for gamification, which is considered by some as consubstantial with the economics of knowledge. Searching for optimal ways to capture our attention is at the heart of new learning processes, naturally leading to the gamification of training facilities, hierarchical structures and workplace organization, the goals and results of which remain to be analyzed. This part of the symposium will feature pieces on links, tensions and potential contradictions between gamification and newer forms of knowledge-based economies. How does gamification shape the way we relate to information or knowledge? What changes could an economy of attention which owes its existence to video games bring about? Are more traditional forms of these economies truly destined to be transformed by the wave of gamification revolutionizing knowledge infrastructures? In an economy where individual behaviors can be explained with data and neuroscience, would competition, performance and well-being become one and the same?

  • Gamified consciousness

Is it possible to consider the gamification of society without looking at those who design, implement or criticize it? This part of the symposium will reflect on what is conveyed by gamified technological devices which measure biological data in real time during exercise, whether they are used for self-care or for enhancing performance. Are these devices simply a technological transposition of the pursuit of a health compatible with social interactions both in and out of work? What about scoring and self-tracking tools, supposedly assessing an individual’s progress in becoming part of a social or professional network? Are they a digital manifestation of older, less visible yet still significant practices to increase social and symbolic capital? Can it be argued that these different ways of counting, of accumulating points and of presenting oneself to the outside world are linked to the transformation of subjectivities that certain authors, following Michel Foucault’s work (2004), perceive as being central to the neoliberal agenda? Leading the discussion back to self-management, to the individual as a “project”, would then seem pertinent (Pharabod, Nikolski, Granjon, 2013; Boltanski, Chiapello, 1999). Such tools and practices also lead to questions about which “values” – economic, performance, commitment, etc. – are associated with these measurements and quantifications. Finally, how is this technology viewed by its users? Are there other significant uses beyond the scope of the goals set out by designers?

  • Gamification discussions and rhetorics

Brian Sutton-Smith (1997) and Sebastian Deterding (2014) worked on the main “rhetorics” (to use their own word) associated with games and, later, gamification. There is much that comes into play with regard to games and their uses: developmental theory (both human and animal), traditional associations with luck and fortune, dynamics of competition and confrontation (i.e. power dynamics) and collective celebration (a key element of identity rituals), as well as the possibilities they offer in terms of creativity, the entertainment factor and their casualness (referred to as “frivolous” by Gilles Brougère (2005)). As per these rhetorics, games are mostly conceived to be a dynamic way of improving knowledge, skills, well-being and group bonding. In this final part of the symposium, contributions concerning gamified practices and the arguments for their conception and continuation will be considered, with the aim of identifying other motivations behind gamification, which may be primary or secondary depending on their area of application. Lastly, case studies may be examined in order to question the validity of the arguments in favor of gamified devices.   All of these aspects demonstrate the ambition of this symposium: to combine research and analytical methods in order to develop a transdisciplinary perspective on these sectors and subjects, and to gain a wider and more political and ethical view of the gamification of society. Organizers Yanita Andonova (LabSic – Paris 13 University – Sorbonne Paris Cité) Jean Frances (GSPR – EHESS) Stéphane Le Lay (LPTA – CNAM Paris 5) Pierre Lénel (Lise – CNAM) Emmanuelle Savignac (Cerlis – Université de la Sorbonne nouvelle – SEF)   Scientific committee

  • Julian Alvarez (De Visu – University of Valenciennes – SIC)
  • Yanita Andonova (Lab Sic – Paris 13 University – Sorbonne Paris Cité)
  • Vincent Berry (Experice – Paris 13 University – Sorbonne Paris Cité)
  • Gilles Brougère (Experice – Paris 13 University – Sorbonne Paris Cité)
  • Maude Bonenfant, (Director of the Homo Ludens research group – UQAM, Canada)
  • Olivier Caïra (Centre Pierre Naville – University of Évry)
  • Laurence Corroy (Cerlis – Université de la Sorbonne nouvelle)
  • Eric Dagiral (Cerlis – Paris Descartes University)
  • Marie-Anne Dujarier (LCSP – Paris Diderot University)
  • Jean Frances (GSPR – EHESS)
  • Stéphane Le Lay (CNAM Paris 5)
  • Pierre Lenel (LISE – CNAM)
  • Anne Monjaret (IIAC-CNRS – EHESS)
  • Emmanuelle Savignac (Cerlis – Université de la Sorbonne nouvelle)
  • Aude Seurrat (LabSIC – Paris 13 University – Sorbonne Paris Cité)
  • Gabrielle Trepanier-Jobin (Associate director of the Homo Ludens research group – UQAM, Canada)
  • Thierry Wendling (IIAC-CNRS – EHESS)
  • Vinciane Zabban (Experice – Paris 13 University – Sorbonne Paris Cité)
  • Nathalie Zaccai-Reyners (FRS-FNRS – Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgique)

Bibliography   Bateson, G., 1972. Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1972. Belmas E., 2006, Jouer autrefois. Essai sur le jeu dans la France moderne (XVIe-XVIIIe siècle), Seyssel, Champ Vallon. Bogost, I., “Why gamification is bullshit” in Walz, S.P., Deterding, S. (eds), The Gameful World, Cambridge (Mass.), The MIT Press, pp. 65–80, 2014. Boltanski L., Chiapello E., 1999, Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris, Gallimard. Brougère G., 2005, Jouer, Apprendre, Paris, Economica. Caïra, O., 2007, Jeux de rôles: les forges de la fiction, Paris, CNRS Editions. Caïra, O., 2011. Définir la fiction : du roman au jeu d’échecs, Paris, Editions de l’EHESS. Deterding S., Sicart M., Nacke L., O’Hara K., Dixon D., 2011, “Gamification: Using game‑design elements in non-gaming contexts”, CHI ’11 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, New York, ACM Press: 2425-2428. French version available online via Deterding, S., “The ambiguity of games: histories and discourses of a gameful world”, in Walz, S. P., Deterding, S. (eds), The Gameful World, Cambridge (Mass.), The MIT Press, pp. 23–64, 2014. Foray, D., 2009. L’économie de la connaissance, Paris, La Découverte. Goffman, E., 1974. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press. Henriot, J., 1989. Sous couleur de jouer. La métaphore ludique. Paris, José Corti, 1989. Linton, R., 1936. The study of man. New York, Appleton-Century-Crofts. Mead, G. H., 1934. Mind, Self and Society, Chicago, University of Chicago Press. Pharabod, A. S., Nikolski, V., & Granjon, F., 2013. «  La mise en chiffres de soi ». Réseaux, (1), 97-129. Schaeffer, J. M., 1999. Pourquoi la fiction. Paris, Seuil. Schechner, R., Schuman, M. (Eds.), 1976. Ritual, play, and performance: Readings in the social sciences/theatre, New York, Seabury Press. Robertson, M., 2010. “Can’t play, won’t play”, Hide & Seek 6. Sutton-Smith, B., 1997. The Ambiguity of Play, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press. Triclot M., 2011, Philosophie des jeux vidéo, Paris, Zones. Turner, V. W., 1982. From ritual to theatre: the human seriousness of play, New York, Paj Publications. Winnicott D. W., 1971, Jeu et réalité. L’espace potentiel, Paris, Gallimard.

Reviews, etc Ehrenreich, healthcare and diagnosis

April 14, 2018

Lit on ‘over diagnosis’ and public/self health discourses:

Deaf education

April 1, 2018

Life in a ‘hostile environment’

March 27, 2018


Triple Games Conference

March 26, 2018

Call for Papers
Games & Literary Theory Conference 2018
IT University of Copenhagen
August 15-17, 2018

Conference committee:
Program chair: Hans-Joachim Backe (
Conference chair: Joleen Blom (

Topic: The Many Literary Theories and Their Role in Game Analysis
This year’s Games and Literary Theory conference sets out to engage the pluralistic nature of contemporary literary theory and its relationship to methods of game analysis. The conference invites submissions that explore the untapped potential for game analysis models still remaining in literary theory. Which traditions, schools, or phases of literary theory have been so far been ignored, misunderstood, or mis-appropriated? What can be learned from the history of literary theory as well as the history of its application to games, and how can we use the many different literary theories to even better understand and analyze games?

Find the full CfP and conference details at

Submission procedure: Abstracts of at least 300 and no more than 700 words (excluding the bibliography) may be submitted via Easychair until May 14th 2018. Abstracts will undergo a double-blind review; submissions will NOT be considered for review if they contain personal identity information. Letters of acceptance or rejection may be expected in early June 2018. Submissions on Easychair will open shortly.

We cannot provide grants or subsidies for participants. There will be, however, no conference fee.

About: Games and Literary Theory is an annual conference for scholars of literature interested in expanding the scope of literary theory, and game scholars concerned with adapting the methodological and theoretical approaches of literary theory for the study of games. Previous conferences were held in Malta (2013), Amsterdam (2014), New Orleans (2015), Kraków (2016) and Montreal (2017).

This year’s Games and Literary Theory conference is part of the Triple Game Studies Conference, hosted at IT University of Copenhagen’s Center for Computer Games Research from August 13 to August 18, 2018. Three game studies conferences will be held in semi-parallel: Philosophy of Computer Games (13th-15th), Games And Literary Theory (15th-17th), and History of Games (16th-17th). The Triple Game Studies conference is sponsored by the ERC through the AdG project MSG – Making Sense of Games and supported by ITU.

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December 7, 2017

Philip Hammond, Chancellor explains.

“It is almost certainly the case that by increasing participation in the workforce, including far higher levels of participation by marginal groups and very high levels of engagement in the workforce, for example of disabled people – something we should be extremely proud of – may have had an impact on overall productivity measurements.”

Deus Ex MD screenshots

November 23, 2017

Fairly random collection of screenshots from Deus Ex Mankind Divided. I’m trying to focus ‘in place’, which means moving between menus, game-play and background (like loading screens, etc.) rather than bolting towards the end of the game and covering ground.

Screenshots: Political posters in the street. Colourful entry to Koller’s underground lair. An image of Koller – he fixes augmentations. He’s gesturing with his hand, although it is actually not clear if it is his hand. Maybe he’s holding a prosthesis. A screenshot of Jensen’s augmentation menu. A screenshot from the in-game guide, this one sounds helpful: ‘How Health Works’


Gender, Science and Technology

November 21, 2017

A new Special Issue of International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology has just been published: Political objects: Prescriptions, injustices and promises of material agents

International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology

Visit their web site to access the papers.






November 10, 2017

Conference – Disability between academic and research practice: breaking barriers towards a just and equal world – 9th May 2018