Queer Games After Empathy: Feminism and Haptic Game Design Aesthetics from Consent to Cuteness to the Radically Soft

Pozo, Teddy
Game Studies

Following critiques of the framework "empathy games" by queer games artists including EMPATHY MACHINE (merritt k, 2014), Empathy Game (Anna Anthropy, 2015), and empathy machine (Mattie Brice, 2016), this article historicizes the empathy debate, offering new directions for queerness and games in the realm of affect, intersubjectivity, and embodiment. Linking queer artists' critiques of empathy in games to feminist critiques of empathy (including Saidiya Hartman [1997], Sara Ahmed [2004], and Clare Hemmings [2012]), the author argues that the genre of "empathy games" must be understood in a continuum of videogame studies, feminist theory, and history. Finally, the piece develops new terms for queer game studies drawn from haptic game design aesthetics, including consent, cuteness, and radical softness, through readings of Curtain (Llaura Dreamfeel, 2014), Hurt Me Plenty (Robert Yang, 2014), SABBAT: Director's Cut (Eva Problems, 2013), and The Truly Terrific Traveling Troubleshooter (Jess Marcotte and Dietrich Squinkifer, 2017).