Tuesday, 12 March 2024


7:00 pm

Let’s Get Critical with Kyle McPhail and Jean Ketterling

Join Kyle McPhail and Jean Ketterling at the Owens for an evening exploring their research on video games and feminist, neurodivergent, queer and transgender theories. Each scholar will make a short presentation followed by a group discussion. At the end of the evening, a selection of games will be available to play.

Let’s Get Critical is a new series of short lectures that highlight interdisciplinary research and invite opportunities for discussion and conversation. Topics span a of variety fields and connect art and art history to a wide range of interests.

Kyle McPhail: Shaping Self: Video Games as Oppositional and Accessible Art

From the abstract pixels in games like Dys4oria or Celeste, to the ancient Greek-inspired characters of Hades, the pixel and polygon characters that occupy video game words are meaningful artistic cultural objects, especially for transgender and autistic individuals. As many of these people face mistreatment and misrepresentation in mainstream media, society, and visual culture, video games have become a valuable tool for players to see a version of themselves in a landscape that often does not care to hear their voices. In the hands of players, video games can be a tool for oppositional practice through which transgender and autistic players can use their experiences to shape, perceive, and make sense of self in a meaningful way, but also reimagine and subvert oppressive and harmful representations. In other words, there is great subversive and oppositional power in your weird headcanon and thirsty fanfic.

Kyle McPhail is the Colville House Fellow at the Pierre Lassonde School of Fine Arts at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. They have a PhD in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester, where they focused on how mainstream art museums represent gender and sexuality. Their current research addresses transgender and disability representation and perception in art and visual culture, specifically looking at fandom spaces, video games, and digital art.

Jean Ketterling: Look Behind You! Playing with Sexual Surveillance in You Must be 18 or Older to Enter and how do you Do It?

Jean Ketterling’s talk considers two indie videogames: You Must be 18 or Older to Enter (Seemingly Pointless, 2017) and how do you Do It? (Freeman et al., 2014). Both games share an interest in the affective impact of parental surveillance and discipline on childhood sexual exploration. Drawing on assemblage theory, Ketterling demonstrates the contingency of videogames’ affective impact on players and the world, as well as the sometimes-contradictory potentials that surveillance produces as part of a sexual assemblage. Drawing on the work of academics Kathryn Bond Stockton and José Esteban Muñoz, Ketterling argues that by allowing players to relive childhood sexual exploration as adults, You Must be 18 or Older to Enter and how do you Do It? provide players with the opportunity to become a playful child, to loop back through time, and re-explore sexual discovery and thus advance nuanced critiques of the way surveillance shapes sexual possibilities.

Jean Ketterling is a PhD Candidate in Legal Studies at Carleton University and a Lecturer in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Mount Allison University. Her research on sex in videogames is rooted in feminist and queer theories and legal, game, and pornography studies. Most recently, her work has appeared in Feminist Media Studies and the edited collection Law, Video Games, Virtual Realities: Playing Law (Routledge, 2024).

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