Module 8: Critical Play and Crip Game Design

8.2 Module Overview


A black woman wears a VR headset and reaches out towards a computer graphic of a muscular robot figure.
A black woman wears a VR headset and reaches out towards a computer graphic of a muscular robot figure. Image Source: Pixabay.

Over this and the next module we will be exploring how play and playfulness can be used to generate creative and interactive stories, games, arguments, essays, poems, and rants. We will perform platform analyses of different videogames and experiment with creating our own games to communicate our ideas.

This module will ask you to consider (and in many ways reconsider) not only the content of the games that you play, but also how you play those games. Games are meant to be played in a very particular way. Sports have rules that dictate what players are and are not allowed to do. Board games have rules which tell you how to set the game up, play, and ultimately win the game. Videogames have similar rules. While we often imagine videogames as allowing players to have agency and choice – a certain kind of freedom when playing – they are just as structured and filled with rules of what is and isn’t allowed as any other game. In board games, other players/referees enforce the rules; i.e. your friends probably would not let you take money freely from the bank in Monopoly. In videogames, code, level designs, game mechanics, and hardware to act as these rule enforcers – the things that force us to play in a specific way. For some players, these rules may be barriers to the playability or enjoyment of the game. For example, players must use a certain controller based on the platform/console they are playing on. The design of controllers and the button inputs the game requires players make can be an accessibility barrier. If we want to think through accessibility in game design and crip game design (games designed with a disability orientation), we not only need to ask how games are designed but who they are designed for, who is able to play them, and who they appeal to.

Looking ahead

By the end of this module:

  1. You will have played digital games and have been asked to think and reflect critically about the design, the message, and the impact of these games.
  2. You will have designed a short game that tells stories about access, justice, and society.

Some questions to keep in mind as you go through this lesson are:

  • Who are games made for? Who is included or excluded from playing games?
  • When we pay attention to the designs and ‘rules’ of games, what does this tell us about who these games are made for?
  • How do we, as players, accept or reject these designs?
  • If we reject these designs and/or ask for accessibility, what does this tell us about the normative orders the game is maintaining?
  • How can we design games to be more accessible?
  • How do games communicate stories and arguments?
  • How do games function as tools of activism?
  • What are the limits of access in game design?


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Digital Methods for Disability Studies Copyright © 2022 by Esther Ignagni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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