MMSEE 2017 plenary session details

I just submitted my talk for the proceedings for MMSEE 2017.

There’s a bunch of keynotes and plenary talks. I’m set as a plenary talk. Here’s what I wrote (I’ll post slides later this summer as I finish them):

What Does It Mean to Be Gaming Literate? Meaning Making Through Games

Literacy can be defined as the ability to legitimately perform particular practices that are consequential within a community or setting (Street, 1984). In this way, gaming spans a number of literacy practices (Steinkuehler, 2007). Likewise, expertise is socially defined through performative actions that others consider as signs of “expertness” through their understanding of what that means as legitimate participants of their situated community (Collins & Evans, 2007). This emphasis on the doing of things rather than the knowing of things calls for researchers to use an analytical lens that focuses on the relationships between actors in a particular setting and how they affect each other (Pickering, 1993; Latour, 2005). The lens thereby focuses on their practice and change in practice over time and necessarily describes the narrative of a dynamic system that is ever changing and struggling in its continual rebirth (Chen, 2012). This talk will give examples of some of these gaming practices and add nuance to our understanding of how they are socially and culturally situated.

More and more, however, I’ve come to understand gaming as not just another example of new literacies but also as a particularly effective way to increase personal agency and empathy in the world at large. Through exploration and play within a game’s systems, we learn about those systems and what works and what doesn’t towards an imagined goal. We become empowered and gain agency to affect our future, projective selves (Gee, 2003/2007). We also are asked to believe… to believe that the choices matter, that the people and situations we meet in games are understandable in a way that we become empathetic to their conditions. In other words, by engaging in gaming practice, we learn how to act and be through games and we strengthen moral and valued identities. Moreover, this new sense of agency and the new feeling of empathy are evidence that players make meaning through their gaming practice. This talk will, therefore, also cover this newer line of thought and make a case for games as spaces for cultural inclusion, understanding, and deep meaning making. Gaming literacy, then, is more than expertise in how to do stuff in games but also how to make connections to others and find meaning through games.

Finally, this talk will end with a call for gaming and play at large. Learning a game and learning to play it well requires critical examination of its systems. Play encourages participation and communicative acts, and play can act as subversive moves to make the world a better place (Zimmerman, ). As educators who want to empower our learners, we have an obligation to cultivate play and play communities that struggle for fairness, inclusion, and equality (DeKoven, 1978/2013).


Chen, M. (2012). Leet noobs: The life and death of an expert player group in World of Warcraft. Peter Lang.

Collins, H., & Evans, R. (2007). Rethinking expertise. University of Chicago Press.

DeKoven, B. (1978/2013). The well-played game: A player’s philosophy. The MIT Press.

Gee, J. (2003/2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Palgrave Macmillan.

Latour, B. (2005).  Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network theory. Oxford University Press.

Pickering, A. (1993). The mangle of practice: Agency and emergence in the sociology of science. American Journal of Sociology, 99(3), 559–589.

Steinkuehler, C. (2007). Massively multiplayer online gaming as a constellation of literacy practices. E-Learning and Digital Media, 4(3), 297-318.

Street, B. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge University Press.

Zimmerman, E. (2013). Manifesto: The 21st Century will be defined by games. Kotaku (September 9, 2013).

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