Special Issue Introduction: Politicizing agency in digital play after humanism

Chia, Aleena and Ruffino, Paolo. 2022. Special Issue Introduction: Politicizing agency in digital play after humanism. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 28(2), pp. 309-319. ISSN 1354-8565 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Although digital games offer pleasures of causal clarity – and moral order – much remains unresolved in their texts, paratexts, and practices. The worldly coherence and agential harmony of digital games are not innocent. They cultivate modes of subjectivity in game culture that vindicate masculinist, colonial, and extractivist ways of being in the world. At the same time, games are used by developers, players, and streamers to wrestle with the limits and complicities of human agency, where stories find no closure and things do not add up. This special issue begins at these rough edges and loose ends to examine the ruptures and residues of agency as a liberal humanist ideology that is crystallized and critiqued by digital play and game making. Drawing from critical posthumanism’s problematization of agency, the articles collected here explore digital play’s mediation of heroism and authoritarianism, contagion and ableism, automatism and creativity. These critical explorations signal a shift in conceptualizations of agency away from agency as a quality afforded in the closed circuit of game and player by building on understandings of play as assemblages co-constituted by players, platforms, and institutions. Instead of agentic qualities, these articles collectively emphasize the plurality of ‘agentic modalities’ that are unevenly interwoven from player interpretations, platform infrastructures, game designs, and developer software tools. This issue’s focus on agency’s modalities instead of substance contributes to the ongoing shift in games research away from the analysis of structural properties of game systems. Instead, this special issue presents contextualized case studies that foreground performances of livability through modalities at and beyond the margins of the agentic frame. Our contribution to these debates lies in this special issue’s collective critique of this agentic frame and its liberal humanism by grounding posthuman theorizations vis-à-vis positionalities of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability.

Item Type:


Additional Information:

agency, affect, cultural production, videogames, game production, game studies, interactivity, posthumanism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


5 May 2022Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

07 May 2024 09:08

Last Modified:

07 May 2024 09:13

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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