“Video Games Have Always Been Queer” by Bonnie Ruberg— The Queer Potential of Video Games

Ruberg, Bonnie. “Video Games Have Always Been Queer”,  (Postmillennial Pop), NYU Press, 2019.

The Queer Potential of Video Games

Amos Lassen

I am not and never have been a gamer. In fact, I never understood why people are drawn to gaming. Then I read Bonnie Ruberg’s “Video Games Have Always Been Queer’ but then so have I. Lately there have been  several discussions about queerness in video games and we understand that many mainstream games have LGBTQ characters. Among these are “Mass Effect” and “Dragon Age”. Bonnie Ruberg looks at the concept of queerness in games beyond just a matter of representation and explores how video games can be played, interpreted, and designed queerly, whether or not they include overt LGBTQ content. She argues that the medium of video games itself can and should be read queerly.

 “Video Games Have Always Been Queer” is the first book that is totally dedicated to bridging game studies and queer theory together and author Ruberg resists the common and reductive narrative that games are only now becoming more diverse. She shows what reading gay scholars can bring to certain games (namely D. A. Miller and the popular 2007 video game “Portal” or what Eve Sedgwick offers the game “Pong”, Ruberg shows the ways game worlds offer players the chance to explore “queer experience, affect, and desire”). As players attempt to “pass” in “Octodad” or explore “failure” in “Burnout: Revenge”. She goes even further and asserts that, even within a dominant gaming culture that has proved to be openly hostile to those perceived as different, “queer people have always belonged in video games—because video games have, in fact, always been queer.”

This is a nuanced and insightful approach to thinking about games through a queer lens. It’s essential reading for those who are interested in being on the cutting edge of theorization about digital games. We do not just learn about games here; we look at the broader definition of media and we see  not just queer representation but serious and powerful ways to think about games and queerness and the commonalities between the two.