Pedagogical Encounters with Structural Whiteness in Games: Tales and Reflections from a Game Studies Classroom

Wu, Hong-An (Ann)
Journal of Games Criticism

This article reflects on my pedagogical encounters with structural whiteness in games as the instructor. Since 2017, I have had the privilege of teaching Game Studies I for seven semesters in an interdisciplinary higher education games program in the United States. As the only required course focused on criticism, students in this course were not only hostile towards critiques of games informed by critical game studies scholarship introduced in class but also dismissive of engaging in criticism for the supposedly purely technical field of game production. To make sense of these encounters, this article narrates my pedagogical encounters with students’ hostility, and this article situates these encounters in the classroom as structural whiteness at work. In relation to the material, discursive, and affective traces of white supremacy functioning as an episteme, I draw on past critical game studies scholarships to contour the ways in which structural whiteness undergirds what kinds of games and gaming experiences are worthy of consideration and how they ought to be investigated in academia. Specifically, I trace the manifestation of structural whiteness to the prioritization of digital games in research, the emphasis on game production over criticism, and the centering of digital games’ default white male user and their experiences. In connection to this knowledge, I proceed to reflect on my pedagogical experiences of encountering structural whiteness in my higher education Game Studies classroom, and I argue that the commonly encountered expressions of doubt, contempt, and undermining towards games criticism works to maintain the hegemony of structural whiteness through classroom discussions. By making explicit the ways in which whiteness intersected with my Game Studies I classrooms, this article attempts to emphasize the pedagogical openings for confronting, surviving, and moving past structural whiteness in games.