CfP: Games of Empire 10 Years Later Special Issue in Games & Culture

Call for Papers: Games of Empire 10 Years Later – Special Issue in Games & Culture

2019 marks ten years since the publication of Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter’s seminal Games of Empire. Adopting the concept of Empire from Italian autonomous Marxist authors Michael Negri & Antonio Hardt, the book is considered one of the hallmarks of videogame cultural criticism. Situated within Western video game scholarship of the early 2000’s, the book reminded many that critical analysis informed by social theory is vital to capturing the phenomena of videogame production processes, and the power hierarchies they derive from and reproduce.

Ten years later, today, it is impossible to ignore the significance that the book – despite its flaws – has shown in addressing the under-researched political aspects of the global videogame industry and cultures. At the same time, it is impossible to ignore the ever-pressing need for cultural and materialist criticism within game studies. There are many elephants in the room – the inequities of the global games labour market, the growing Game Workers unionization and the international solidarity necessary for it, the games industry’s contribution to the expansion and consolidation of global corporate interests, the revitalization of fascism in and around games, and the reproduction of colonialism under conditions of globalised supply chains and markets. In light of this, many researchers are returning to the question of how conditions of production highlight the inherently politicized nature of videogames as a global 21st century cultural industry, prompting them to explore how it can be subjected to critical analysis, to inform interventions both by scholars and by workers in the sector. Games of Empire, specifically, while an opportune starting point for critical analysis everywhere, is not without its limits. Indeed, while Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter and others (e.g., Banks & Cunningham, 2013; Nieborg, 2011; O’Donnell, 2014; Deuze, 2007), have shown that it is possible (and publishable) to inspect and critique the role of the videogames industry in the world, much remains to be said about both.

Contemporary phenomena emblematic to videogames’ culture and industry require scholarly and critical addressing – issues such as the cultural and economic imperialism of global videogame companies; the platformization of culture (Nieborg & Poell, 2018); the privileging and problematization of indie and intersectional production (Martin & Deuze, 2009; Ruffino, 2012; Shaw, 2009); the consolidation of cultural and economic power via the dynamics of monopoly capitalism and imperialism, including the exploitative structure of platforms that turn players into workers and information into commodities capturing the cultural activity of play as seen in free-to-play and so-called lootbox business models (Joseph 2017); the mutually beneficial relationship between corporate grassroots movements such as Gamergate and multinational companies’ exploitation of their workers which they manage using a pay stub online (Keogh 2018; Polansky 2018); the material and ecological ramifications of always-online infrastructures, planned obsolescence, videostreaming, and so-called cloud-based gaming; the cultural and economic conditions that maintain and reproduce what Fron, Fullerton, Morie, & Pearce called “the Hegemony of Play” (2007) ; the game industry’s intersecting matrix of domination (Collins 2002) along racial, gendered, sexual, class, language, ethnic, and bodily dimensions; and so on. Even within the nebulous discipline of game studies itself, questions of Empire are in dire need of addressing (Russworm 2018), especially against the background of positionality , the politics of citation, academia as a colonial force, bourgeois conferences overrepresenting Western, privileged and tenure-track participants able to pay extravagant fees (Butt, et al., 2018), as well as the relationship between industry and research. As such, the initial discussions motivated by Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter’s research remain as, if not more, relevant than ever. It is crucial that similar critical investigations are contemporarily re-articulated to highlight paths and strategies to understand videogames today as symptoms of a deeply unjust state of the world, and perhaps to transform the structures that reproduce this state.

To do so, this special issue of Games & Culture invites authors in game studies, cultural studies, production studies, and related disciplines to engage in a dialogue with Games of Empire and the themes of global capitalism, videogame production as global cultural industry, and related themes of Empire, inequality, and hegemony. This dialogue can be based on contemporary and ongoing research, both theoretical and empirical, into videogame production today. Possible papers could include themes such as:

  • Empire and multitude in the contemporary games sector
  • Cognitive capitalism and work in the globalised production chain
  • Machinic subjects in the post-platform era
  • Social theory in game studies (post-Empire)
  • Platform capitalism
  • Working conditions in videogame production
  • Nomad game making
  • Major and minor subjectivity in game production
  • Making desiring subjects
  • 21st century imperialism and monopoly capitalism
  • Comparative production cultures: difference and continuity between (national) production cultures
  • Postcolonialism, empire, and emancipation
  • Cultural production in the margins: Games & workers of the so-called global south.
  • Unionization efforts among game workers (Game Workers Unite, #AsAGameWorker, etc.)
  • Empire through & within academia and game studies
  • The Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network, in and outside of the imperial core
  • The ecological and material aspects of the global games industry in the Age of the Capitalocene

These themes can be interpreted broadly. When submitting an extended abstract, please identify explicitly how your proposed submission responds to Games of Empire, including developing one of its concepts, critiquing its arguments, or reflecting back on its significance in contemporary research.


Extended abstracts should be submitted by March 1st 2019. Notification of abstract acceptance by April 1st 2019.

Full manuscripts (approximately 5.000 words) of accepted abstracts are due September 6th 2019. Notification of manuscript acceptance by November 4th 2019.

Final publications of 5-6 accepted articles in Games & Culture are expected around June 2020

Submission process

Submissions should comprise of

  • Extended abstracts between 800-1000 words (excluding bibliography).
  • Author information (short biographical statement of 200 words)

Please submit to Emil Hammar (emil.hammar@uit.no) by March 1st 2019.

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