CPGS: “Questions from Within Solidarity”

After a Summer of participating in various #BlackLiveMatter protests and actions, and shortly after the beginning of the Fall semester (2020), I composed the following statement on behalf of the Council for Play and Game Studies. Sara Lovett (Vice Chair) and Emma Kostopolus (Assistant Chair) were wonderful editors and provided some incredible feedback on what was a emotional writing.

Dear CPGS Community,

We hope that this letter finds you and yours healthy and safe. Although this hope has long become platitudinous, we continue to say it with sincerity simply because we seem to face anger, frustration, pain, loss, and uncertainty every day.

On August 23, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city not far from Milwaukee, 29-year-old Black male Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha police. At the time of this incident, Mr. Blake was reportedly acting as a peacekeeper and attempting to help resolve a heated argument near his vehicle. The police were called and Mr. Blake was accosted while trying to remove himself from the scene. As he attempted to enter his vehicle, he was shot seven times. Blake’s three young sons screamed from the back seat while their father was gunned down right in front of them.

At the time of this writing, Mr. Blake is recovering but paralyzed from the waist down. Last week, Kenosha was waking up to mornings still smoldering from another night of burning, tear gas, and violence. Details about the incident are still being disputed. The officer who shot Blake, Rusten Sheskey, and two other officers, have been placed on administrative leave and are under investigation. We call for justice to be served and that they be appropriately charged for the excessive and unjustified use of force. This would only be a start, however, and so we continue to push for the exposure and subsequent destruction of those systems of racism, white supremacy, and violence that have corrupted the law enforcement industry since its inception.

We are thankful that Mr. Blake is alive but are pained by the impact this will have on him and his loved ones – especially his children and family. We are also incensed that, after the murders of Trayford Pellerin, Salaythis, Melvin, Vincent Harris, Darius Washington, Rayshard Brooks, Michael Thomas, Kamal Flowers, Tyquarn Graves, David McAtee, James Scurlock, Alejandra Monocuco, Momodou Lamin Sisay, Jarvis Sullivan, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Botham Jean, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Yvette Smith, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Yvette Smith, Alton Sterling, David McAtee, Walter Scott, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Sean Monterrosa, Jamel Floyd, and so many, many others…

…we are still left wanting justice.  

Many of us in the CCCC community are currently poring over syllabi and course designs that we hope are equitable, just, and fair. But we also need to look up from our assignments and lesson plans to witness the systemic injustice, material disparity, and historic displacement that Black Americans continue to face. We must stand in solidarity in our actions as teachers, researchers, gamers, designers, and as humans. 

The Council for Play and Game Studies at CCCC is adamant in our support of the Black Lives Matter movement. We support the peaceful protests that are erupting across the nation and condemn the disproportionately oppressive responses by municipal, state, and federal forces. We will neither accept nor even tolerate the actions and rhetoric of those who would exacerbate hatred. We will not support leadership who would seek policies that oppress and fraction the citizenry. 

The Council for Play and Game Studies vows to amplify those Black voices who would be silenced by the oppressors. We will ensure that our pedagogy accommodates diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We will dedicate the classroom to dismantling those pedagogical structures that, according to Asao Inoue (2019), perpetuate white supremacy and plunder the rich linguistic diversity of our classrooms. We will support the work of Black scholars through research practices that seek out and include their scholarship. 

In light of this, we ask that all play and game-focused pedagogues take a moment to consider and reflect on the values games and play bring to the classroom. How do the games we bring to class foster an understanding of justice? How does our discussion of these games impart the abilities to not only see but confront injustice? Are the games we’re playing privileging compassion over competition? Creation over consumption? Is our playful pedagogy one that embraces those forms of play that are strange to us? Do the games inform a sense of power that can ultimately be used to dismantle the injustices in their lives outside of the game? Are we making games that, from concept to execution, accommodate players of all backgrounds and abilities? 

Who are we inviting to the table? Who is left out?

Cited and Other Recommended Works

Acosta, Melanie M, and Denham, André R. “Simulating Oppression: Digital Gaming, Race and the Education of African American Children.” The Urban Review, vol. 50, no. 3, 2018, pp. 345–362.

Blackmon, Samantha. “Beware the Magical Negro: On Tropes, Race, and Black Lives Matter.” Not Your Mama’s Gamer. 4 Aug. 2016. 

Gray, Kishonna J and David J Leonard. Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Justice. University of Washington Press, 2018.

Inoue, Asao. “How Do We Language So People Stop Killing Each Other, Or What Do We Do About White Language Supremacy?” Keynote address delivered to the Conference on College Composition and Communication, 14 Mar. 2019.

Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play. MIT Press, 2009.

Kessock, Shoshana. “Cultural Appropriation and Larp.” The Cutting Edge of Nordic Larp, edited by Jon Back, Gråsten, Knutpunkt, 2014pp. 125-134.

Richard, Gabriela T., and Kishonna L. Gray. “Gendered play, racialized reality: Black cyberfeminism, inclusive communities of practice, and the intersections of learning, socialization, and resilience in online gaming.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 39.1 (2018): 112-148.

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