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The Privilege of Play: Connecting Games and Race in the 20th Century

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Event Details:

The Silicon Valley Archives will host an online version of this talk via Zoom on June 9, 2023, at 10:00 am PDT. To register for the online version of this talk, please RSVP here. The in-person talk will be held in Hohbach Hall on June 9, 2023, at 4:00 pm PDT. To register for the in-person version of this talk, please RSVP here. 

The histories of race and games in the 20th century have long been siloed. Popular histories of games often render invisible the race of the white men that they celebrate, thus inviting readers to take for granted the somewhat homogenous demographics of the games industry. Far from being coincidental, I argue that race has been central to the history of games. I will present historical research in this talk that shows how the early leaders of the game industry were able to thrive due to their community ties. I term these white communities "networks of privilege" and offer evidence for how these networks developed of the course of the 20th century and used dog whistles to keep BIPOC people out. Thus, in this talk I will foreground how the invisible politics of whiteness have shaped the history of games itself. 

Aaron Trammell is an Assistant Professor of Informatics at UC Irvine. He is interested in how tabletop games further values of white privilege and hegemonic masculinity in geek culture. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Analog Game Studies and the co-editor for the Tabletop Gaming series at University of Michigan Press. He has two books Repairing Play (2023 MIT Press) is a theory of play that centers BIPOC people and The Privilege of Play (2023 NYU Press) is a history of games and race in the 20th Century.