Viewing Games from Without: Queering Procedural Subjectivity in The Novelist
Opheusden, E. van
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Reviewing the literature on gender in games, and the conflicting approaches of narratology and ludology, it’s clear that many essentialist binaries are still being reproduced, crippling the development of a nuanced understanding of the intersection between games and identity. In seeking to contribute to the developing field of queer game studies, this paper coins the term ‘procedural subjectivity,’ referring to the process whereby the mechanical composition of a game invites the player into a subject-position from which the game becomes meaningful. Building on the work of Donna Haraway, Judith Butler, and Sara Ahmed, the ways in which the formal aspects of a game can queer this procedural subjectivity are explored. The computer game The Novelist is then analyzed through this framework, uncovering seemingly contradictory approaches in a liberatory rejection of dominant design philosophies on the one hand, and a metaphorical simulation of the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people in precarious situations on the other. The author concludes that these conflicting knowledges can simultaneously be true, reflecting on the queer potential in refusing to be defined along congruent axes.