Al Valentin

Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Al Valentin is a Ph.D. Student in Women’s and Gender Studies. Their research focuses primarily on pop culture and how it works to simultaneously reflect and shape the way that we talk about and experience gender identity, sexual orientation, race, class, size and ability via affective investments and entanglements.

Dissertation Title: Our Games, Our Selves: Multiplicity, Meaning, Difference and Ethics in Gaming

Dissertation Abstract: Al ‘s dissertation analyzes videogames to examine normative conceptions of humanity, using affect theory, assemblage theory, intersectionality and biopolitics to understand how gaming modulates what and why we “feel” for “others.” It begins by exploring what videogames teach us about how emotions function, with specific attention to empathy, desire and fear. Secondly, it investigates how videogames expose the various genres of the human and their construction as well as the limits of binaries such as human/non-human, alive/dead, and virtual/actual. The goal of this dissertation is to reveal how who we feel for, who we desire and who we fear are all shaped by existing structural inequalities such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, sizeism and other forms of oppression through the historically and culturally constructed hierarchies of Man, or the Human and how videogames specifically help to shape those feelings (or lack thereof). Inherent in questions of empathy, desire, and fear, are arguments over who is considered human and who isn’t, whose experiences count and whose doesn’t, who matters and who doesn’t. But this question is further complicated when we consider the intense attachments that gamers form with the characters and worlds they play within. The question then, becomes not just who counts but what counts within the space of play and how the play itself reverberates outside of its own bounds. Who/what persists after one plays and who/what perishes?