Video Games and Literature: Beyond the Ludic (Part 1) (Panel)


Comparative Literature / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Michael O'Krent (Harvard University)

Mehmet Yildiz (Harvard University)

Scholars of literature are increasingly beginning to take note of video games as an aesthetic medium that poses social, cultural, and philosophical questions in sophisticated and nuanced ways. Yet few proposals for how to integrate the medium-specific attributes of video games into literary studies exist. Taking video games as one of the many modes in which we interact with each other in today’s global world, this panel invites both gamers and non-gamers to discuss methodological questions that scholars of literature encounter when they critically engage with video games.

How can media studies and narratological scholarship on games be useful for literature scholars? Is there a border between video games and other born-digital media (digital novels, hypertext, etc.)? In light of events such as Gamergate, how should we understand video games as a political medium? What kinds of narratives do games produce? Is the narrative in the game or the player? What is especially “literary” about (certain) games? Is the game designer dead?

Recent developments in the gaming industry make it necessary to recognize that games are not simply played -- gameplay experiences are streamed and shared on platforms such as Twitch and Youtube, as well as through in-person forums that range from casual camaraderie to international tournaments. Video gaming is a developing cultural field that exhibits both thought-provoking artistic creations and widespread political consequences. As such, video games offer a wealth of untapped resources for humanistic thinkers. This panel stresses the inadequacy of current vocabulary for analyzing the types of narrative one might find on an Xbox or on Steam. Just as film has a place in literature departments, so too might video games find a place in twenty-first century literary studies.


Scholars of literature are taking note of video games as an aesthetic medium that poses social, cultural, and philosophical questions in sophisticated ways. Yet few proposals for how to integrate the medium-specific attributes of video games into literary study exist. What kinds of narratives do games produce? Is the narrative in the game or the player? What is “literary” about games? Given events such as Gamergate, how should we understand video games as a political medium? This panel invites both gamers and non-gamers to discuss methodological questions that scholars of literature encounter when they critically engage with video games.