Call for Papers:

Playing While the World Burns: Games in a Time of Crisis

The world is in peril, and yet we are still playing.

In  the midst of the climate emergency and environmental disasters of the Anthropocene; in the third year of a global pandemic; as wars rage in Ukraine, Yemen, Tigray and elsewhere; as nationalistic and far-right discourses move closer to the political mainstream sphere; as authoritarianism rears its head, freedom of speech is curtailed, and journalists are assassinated; as the rights of women, LGBTIQ+ individuals and racial and ethnic minorities are rolled back; as humanitarian crises unfold among migrants and asylum seekers: in the light of all of this, it becomes vital to ask, what is the point of making, playing and studying games? Put differently: what role do, or can, games play in relation to these multiple crises?    

In the best case, games can seem like a frivolous distraction from addressing such urgent concerns. In the worst case, digital games – enmeshed as they are in the technological materiality, discourses and networks of labour relations of global capitalism – are active contributors to many of the crises described above. To list only some of the ways in which this might be the case: commercial game production is embedded in the material-discursive structures and problematic labour relations of capitalism (Dyer-Witherford & de Peuter 2009; Hammar et al 2021); playing and making digital games demands the use of energy-intensive technologies that contribute to the climate crisis (Abraham 2022); games reproduce imperialist discourses and colonialist ideologies (Mukherjee 2018); and create cultures that support far-right radicalisation (Bjørkelo 2020).

On the other hand, perhaps it is also possible to identify ways in which games can respond positively to times of crisis. This might mean paying attention to games’ capacity to represent and engage with contemporary crises, such as through the development of utopian or dystopian imaginaries (Pedercini 2019; Farca 2018) as practices of thinking otherwise. It could involve highlighting emancipatory efforts to reclaim games, and the ideological assumptions underpinning their ludic characteristics and spaces, through transgressive practices of design or play – for instance, from queer (Ruberg 2019) or postcolonial (Jayanth 2021) perspectives. On an individual or interpersonal level, it could mean considering games as coping mechanisms, as means of self-care or community formation – for instance, as means of countering the stress and isolation of pandemic-era lockdowns (Pearce et al 2021). 

We invite contributions that engage critically with the place, functions and impacts of games in a time of crisis, including – but not limited to – interventions addressing any of the following perspectives: 

  • Theorising games in a time of crisis: what theoretical and methodological approaches does game studies require to speak about games in these contexts? What interdisciplinary encounters would such approaches structure?
  • Games and the ideologies of crisis: exclusion, exploitation, extraction and expansion
  • Problematising game production: how do the material, discursive and labour conditions of the games industry reflect the systems of global capitalism, and contribute to the crises caused by these systems? 
  • Games and the poetics of crisis: in what way(s) can games perform an artistic response to the multiple crises of the contemporary world?
  • Social activism in (and through) game production, practices of play and player communities
  • Games, transgression and resistance: colliding perspectives, identifying counter-narratives and radical ways of being and playing, and designing for change
  • Games and the care of the self and the community in crisis

We welcome all contributions that relate to these questions, but particularly encourage work contextualized beyond the historically dominant locuses of production and reception of games – for instance, that specifically address games in the Global South, or that adopt postcolonial, feminist or queer perspectives. 

Please consult the information for authors (…/) for details regarding the formatting of your paper. Papers in English can be sent to: .

Editors of the thematic issue: Daniel Vella, PhD (University of Malta) –, and Justyna Janik, PhD (Jagiellonian University in Kraków) –

Publication schedule:

Submission of full papers: 25.09.2022

Notification of papers acceptance: 10.10.2022


Abraham, B. J. (2022). Digital Games After Climate Change. Palgrave Macmillian: London.

Bjørkelo, K. A. (2020). “Elves are Jews with Pointy Ears and Gay Magic”: White Nationalist Readings of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Game Studies. 2020, 20(3)  

Dyer-Witherford & de Peuter. 2009. Games of Empire. Global Capitalism and Video Games. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.

Farca, G. 2018. Playing Dystopia. Nightmarish Worlds in Video Games and the Player’s Aesthetic Response. Transcript.

Hammar, E. L., de Wildt, L., Mukherjee, S., & Pelletier, C. (2021). Politics of Production: Videogames 10 years after Games of Empire. Games and Culture, 16(3), 287–293.

Jayanth, M. (30 Nov 2021). “White Protagonism and Imperial Pleasures in Game Design #DIGRA21”. Medium

Mukherjee, S. (2018). Playing Subaltern: Video Games and Postcolonialism. Games and Culture, 13(5), 504–520.

Pearce, K. E., Yip, J. C., Lee, J. H., Martinez, J. J., Windleharth, T. W., Bhattacharya, A., & Li, Q. (2021). Families Playing Animal Crossing Together: Coping With Video Games During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Games and Culture (first view).

Pedercini, P. (18 Apr 2019). “Lichenia Release Notes”. Molleindustria

Ruberg, B. (2019). Video Games Have Always Been Queer. NYU Press.

Deadline: September 25, 2022