The cultural ubiquity of The Lord of the Rings has shaped our contemporary assumptions about what the fantasy genre looks like, and these assumptions have in turn determined to a great extent what video games look like both historically and today. The Lord of the Rings and video games are, sadly, both well known for their lack of diversity, and this article argues that that is no coincidence. Focusing on the impact of the life and work of J. R. R. Tolkien, it traces fantasy media from the birth of the genre to the present day to discuss how exclusion is remediated, normalized, and justified. It challenges the racism of the “historical accuracy” fallacy and details how very old sexist literary tropes are continually remediated into contemporary fantasy video games. It asks: What can past discourses surrounding diversity in fantasy media tell us about the resistance to diversity in video games in the present?
There and Back Again: Tolkien, Gamers, and the Remediation of Exclusion through Fantasy Media
Emma Vossen is the Refiguring Innovation in Games (ReFiG) postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia. Her research centers on social justice issues in games, play, and games culture, focusing specifically on methods of exclusion such as gatekeeping and online harassment. She is the coeditor and coauthor of Feminism in Play (Palgrave, 2018), and her dissertation, “On the Cultural Inaccessibility of Gaming: Invading, Creating, and Reclaiming the Cultural Clubhouse” (University of Waterloo, 2018) has been downloaded more than twenty thousand times. emmavossen.com.
Emma Vossen; There and Back Again: Tolkien, Gamers, and the Remediation of Exclusion through Fantasy Media. Feminist Media Histories 1 January 2020; 6 (1): 37–65. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2020.6.1.37
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