PWNing Leisure: Feminist Play in the Shadow of the Pandemic — an online talk by Shira Chess

Page Not Found and the Master Experimental Publishing (XPUB) at the Piet Zwart Institute, Willem de Kooning Academy, join forces again with artist Lídia Pereira to publish a Special Issue on how games pervade contemporary culture. To sustain this publishing project, we are happy to invite you to a series of online lectures investigating play, productivity and leisure.

As the second speaker in the series, scholar Shira Chess presents her talk “PWNing Leisure: Feminist Play in the Shadow of the Pandemic”.

Pandemic-based inequities have been far reaching, particularly having affected some of the most marginalized populations, globally. In this presentation, Chess argues that leisure disparities have been exacerbated over the course of the pandemic. In order to reimagine our current landscape, Chess discusses ways that we can think about video games and other modes of play as a way to “PWN” our leisure, broadly. Pulling from leisure studies, video game studies, and feminist theory this presentation is meant to be a provocation that disrupts and reimagines play in our everyday lives, and the lives of those around us. 

Shira Chess is an Associate Professor of Entertainment and Media Studies at the University of Georgia. Her books include ‘Play Like a Feminist’ (MIT Press, 2020) and ‘Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity’ (University of Minnesota Press, 2017).  

Under the guidance of Lídia and the XPUB staff, this semester the master students will explore how video games are making us more, not less, productive. Getting Likes and Super Likes, choosing your avatar, unlocking badges and achievements, are but a few examples of the language of games as it is repurposed in data-extractivist software. Life and work are ‘gamified’ through social media, dating apps, and fitness apps designed to increase motivation and productivity. Gamification blurs the lines between play, leisure and labour, to release our collective dopamine for profit. Video games in themselves often perform a reproductive role, presenting capitalism as a system of natural laws, exemplified by in-game predatory monetisation schemes. On the other hand, games provide necessary down time and relaxation, helping people function in a largely dysfunctional economy and society. Yet leisure remains a contested space which is still unequally distributed, between genders, ethnicities and abilities.

The students’ works, gathered in a Special Issue, will be launched at Page Not Found on the 25th of March.

Starts at 16:00.

Reserve your free ticket here.