Games in Action conference Vancouver BC

Cis Penance is on display this weekend at Heart Projector’s pop-up arcade at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. This is part of the Games in Action conference, the largest event organized on UBC campus focused on video games and their impacts on our social and political world. I can’t be there in person, but I will be attending the conference virtually online. For more details see


Desperate Livin interactive archive

This year I’ve had the pleasure of doing a little project with Raju Rage and Studio Voltaire, creating a web experience for their online archive of transgender health resources. They launched it this week, and you can check it out at

They reached out to commission this after they had included Cis Penance in an online exhibition. Since their archive includes a lot of zines and artist-made publications, the rough DIY aesthetic of Cis Penance felt like a good fit. As well as thinking about how to make a website feel tactile, like a zine table in a community space, I was also thinking about Olia Lialina’s 1996 net art piece My Boyfriend Came Back From The War, which kind of feels like it sits at this intersection between personal memories and the structuring institutions of the state. I approached this project considering about how I might make something similar today using the kind of web coding that I’m more familiar with, while ensuring that the code is accessible to others who want to add more material in the future, without using a CMS.

The site is hosted on Neocities, which is a platform for hand-built, DIY websites that often have a retro aesthetic. If you’re a Neocities user, you can follow the site to see future updates. It’s such a delight to be asked to make something by people who are down with this kind of lo-fi “yesterweb” approach. It’s pretty liberating to make a web site that won’t have any pop-ups asking users to consent to cookies, isn’t built with proprietary tools that will be deprecated in the future, etc. The ethos of Neocities is about building community through self-made, low-cost pieces of media art, which seems pretty zine-like to me.

Massive thanks to Studio Voltaire for trusting me and going along with this unconventional way of commissioning and building a website! It’s a huge honour to play a part in a project that aims to contribute to ongoing access to community care for transgender people.

Bundle for Ukraine

A quick note that my book Delay: Paying Attention to Energy Mechanics is in the Bundle for Ukraine, which has already raised $5.5 million for the charities International Medical Corps and Voices of Children. The bundle includes content from 736 creators, making it an incredible way to get hold of a huge collection of indie games and other material hosted on, while supporting charities responding under the horrifying conditions of Russia’s senseless war. Please give it your support:

Sheffield Theatres Bank Cohort

I’m delighted to share that I’m one of a number of artists receiving support from Sheffield Theatres for the next year as part of the Bank Cohort! I’ll be building on some of the work I did last year, and trying out some new ideas, as well as finding new ways to do fun things with theatre and games. I’m incredibly pleased, and very uplifted by the warmth and openness of the folks at Sheffield Theatres. Huge thanks!

The Bank is a dedicated hub for talent development; this is the second cohort to be supported by Sheffield Theatres.

The artists will be offered bespoke support, training, artistic opportunities and professional development. The three directors are: Callum Berridge, Shreya Patel and Alexandra Whiteley, who will enjoy a host of opportunities including working as an assistant director on a Sheffield Theatres’ production. The three producers are: Beck Gadsby, Lydia Harrison and Katrina Woolley, who will receive mentoring, as well as seed funding to develop an idea, event or production using The Bank as their base, drawing on the support of the producing team at Sheffield Theatres. The three writers are: Nicole Joseph, Jasmin Mandi-Ghomi and Chloe Wade, who will benefit from masterclasses and mentoring as well as having the opportunity to undertake a research and development process with their writing. The four remaining artists each work in different theatre-based disciplines: Tommo Fowler is a dramaturg, Jennifer Jackson is a theatre maker and movement director / choreographer, Jose Guillermo Puello is a sound designer / composer and Zoyander Street is an artist-researcher and theatre maker. They will all receive tailored support in their fields.

Caroline Sinders: Feminist Data Set

I’m excited to be in conversation with Caroline Sinders this Saturday at Site Gallery, in the final event of their Digital Residency. Caroline’s art research practice addresses the potentials and injustices of tech, with a focus on exploring liberatory alternatives to the extractive big data industry. Sign up here.

Also, earlier that day, I’ll be hosting another in-conversation event at Typeset, between author Tair Rafiq and Dr. David Hartley, co-founder of the Narratives of Neurodiversity Network. Find out more and get a free ticket (in person or online) here.

Site Gallery, Sheffield, S1 2BS 

Sat 4th December 2021

For the final event in the Feminist Data Set workshop series with digital resident Caroline Sinders, we are pleased to welcome Caroline to Sheffield for a special in-person event at Site Gallery. 

Since July, Caroline has been working with Site Gallery to bring new voices to the Feminist Data Set project, through online workshops with Site Gallery audiences and discussion sessions with a selection of special international guest speakers. For this session, Caroline is joined by Rotherham-based artist Zoyander Street, who will share insights into their own research and practices and how they intersect with the interests of Feminist Data Set. 

Feminist Data Set is a multi-year project that interrogates every step of the AI process that includes data collection, data labeling, data training, selecting an algorithm to use, the algorithmic model, and then designing how the model is then placed into a chat bot (and what the chatbot looks like).  Every step exists to question and analyze the pipeline of creating using machine learning—is each step feminist, is it intersectional, does each step have bias and how can that bias be removed? 

Free tickets

Squinky Collab live performance next week!

The interactive live performance of my collab project with Squinky is next week, and tickets are still available! Details below.

About this event

Video Call Calamity is an online interactive play about the awkwardness of video calls, and the scripts and protocols that we use to try to pass as ‘normal’.

Audience members are invited (but not forced!) to take on the roles of two of the main characters, while the rest of the audience creates the script live, through voting and text chat. Expect some big feelings, uncomfortable silences, and unsolicited rants about queerness and neurodiversity.

While this show encourages interaction, there is no pressure to speak on camera. Audience members can just type in the specially designed online platform to influence the course of events!

The show will be followed by approximately 30 mins of informal discussion with the artists and Andro and Eve, and with space for folk to connect and share their thoughts.


£10 + booking fee
or £15 + booking fee for Solidarity Tickets.
Discounted tickets (£5) available for those on low incomes.

CSI Skill Tree: Kentucky Route Zero

On 27th July, as part of a series of online events run by Arizona State University’s Centre for Science and the Imagination, I will be talking about Kentucky Route Zero with Rachel Carr, a scholar of Southern U.S. and Modernist literature, as well as Women’s and Gender Studies, at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky. We’ll be talking about gothic motifs of places that carry trauma, figurations of rural and post-industrial landscapes,  and the role of play and art in how the game imagines post-capitalist ways of living. Details here!

In the CSI Skill Tree series, we examine and celebrate how video games envision possible futures, build rich and thought-provoking worlds, and engage people as active participants in unfolding and interpreting stories.

For our latest event, we’ll take a close look at Kentucky Route Zero, a magical realist adventure game about a secret, paranormal highway running through the caves beneath Kentucky. The game was released in five “acts” between 2013 and 2020, and it takes a mind-bending artistic and philosophical approach to themes of labor, debt, alienation, rural disinvestment, automation, the collision of the digital and physical worlds, and how history haunts our experience of the present and our possible futures.

Our special guests are Zoyander Street, an artist, researcher, critic, and ethnographer who works on video games, media art, and other (mis)uses of technology, and Rachel Carr, a scholar of Southern U.S. and Modernist literature, as well as Women’s and Gender Studies, at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky.

The event will be broadcast live on Zoom, and is free and open to everyone—register today!

Reclaiming the Rainbow Photo Challenge

I am one of three judges on Andro & Eve’s Reclaiming the Rainbow Photo Challenge – details below. Please send in your weirdest visual experiments with rainbows!

Reclaiming the Rainbow Photo Challenge is a way to raise awareness of the Pride flag as a symbol of safety, build connections, and celebrate the strength of the South Yorkshire LGBTQ+ community through this difficult time.

Are you LGBTQ+ and living in South Yorkshire? Then get involved with our photo challenge!

To enter our photo challenge all you need to do is to take a photo on your phone or camera.

Entries close on midnight on Sunday 1st August.

The photo challenge entries will be judged by South Yorkshire creatives, Nelly Naylor, Yuen Fong Ling, and Zoyander Street.

The winner will receive a bumper pack of goodies from local independents including Vulgar Vintage, Showroom Cinema, Birdhouse Tea, Beer Central, Truffle Pig Vegan and Artisan and Eco. There’ll also be prizes for runners up too from Moss and Clover florists and treats by Elly Joy.

Winners announced in early August. Have fun and good luck!

Pride, queer haunting, and Geralt of Rivia’s itchy doublet

I’ve realised recently that a surprisingly large number of things are both gay and homophobic at the same time. There are things that only make sense to me in the context of queer life, but that are also compelled to disavow their participation in queerness. The result is that they feel haunted by the lives that they refuse to animate. A lot of these uncomfortable politics can be encapsulated by an item of clothing worn by Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, usually at the behest of one of his girlfriends.

Content warning: discussion of homophobia, queerphobia, and ableism; portrayal of transmisogynistic images and tropes.

Doublets came to prominence in Europe in the 15th to 17th centuries, and incorporated a number of different technologies at different times to shape the male body and signal one’s belonging to a collective identity. Some doublets used whale bone to flatten the torso and straighten the posture, and they were often worn with heeled boots to further modify the gait. Other trends represented in the doublets available in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt include the ornamental use of metal buttons and leather to subtly signal elite status without standing out by wearing anything too garish (Hayeur-Smith et al. 2018), and the “skimpy doublet”, which was intentionally worn short to reveal the undershirt layer, a subject of some scandal from moralists at the time.

The specifics of how doublets signalled both group belonging and elevated status in different contexts at different times are not important to The Witcher 3, but the cultural politics of dress, masculinity, and austerity are noticeable. There are certain events in the game where clothing is associated with social feelings, such as shame and pride, and this association stands out in particular in those moments where Geralt is asked to wear a doublet.

We recognise shame as the opposite of pride. But the goal or outcome of Pride as a public event is not the same as the personal feeling of pride; the collective outcome is more like visibility, truth, and having space in society. Similarly, the public, collective result of a society that treats our identities with shame is not reducible only to the subjective feeling of shame; it is invisibility, speculation, and having to haunt the spaces that we would have otherwise had.

In Ghosts of My Life, Mark Fisher writes “What should haunt us is not the no-longer of actually existing social democracy, but the not-yet of the futures that popular modernism trained us to expect, but which never materialised.” In Time Binds, Elizabeth Freeman writes about “queer hauntology” in relation to artworks that project the present into the past, or Derrida’s hauntology as the sense that the present is haunted by the past’s unfulfilled promise. I understand this hauntology as a grief for the worlds we didn’t get to create, and the selves that we didn’t get to be. On top of that meaning of the term, works like The Witcher 3 make me feel personally alien or ghost-like, as though it were me and my actually-existing community that was haunting the worlds that dare not imagine us into being.

When I think about how The Witcher 3 makes me feel, as though I were a ghost lurking in the background of other people’s stories, I think about Sarah the Godling, one of the many beings in the Witcher universe who is misunderstood as a monster until Geralt pays closer attention to them. Sarah has been intentionally giving people the impression that a house is haunted, in part because she enjoys the mischief, and in part because it is one of the few strategies available that allow her to ensure a place to live. Haunting is how she is able to have space in a world that disavows her kind.

Lurking in the background of The Witcher 3 is the fact that Geralt, as a witcher, does not fit in or belong to mainstream society. People yell insults at him, including “freak” and even “gray boy”??? The not-very-hidden subtext is that Geralt too is misread as a monster, and his kind are now almost gone from this hostile world. Witchers were produced out of the attempt to rid the world of things that people considered “other”, and then they themselves became part of the “other” that people fear and do not understand. Sometimes what I want to say about this game is that it refuses to understand what it’s really like to live on the margins, but sometimes I think that it actually shows a disturbing level of insight into that marginalisation by turning diversities of gender and sexuality into little more than half-remembered daydreams.

To move between the highest levels of society and its haunted corners, Geralt needs to mask, and doublets are a key tool in doing this. Mages also mask, but the affective imaginaries attached to masking differ along gendered lines. Changing your appearance to fit in with beauty norms is seen as a desirable perk of being a mage, one for which they are willing to suffer terribly. Geralt, however, could hardly be less enthusiastic about wearing a single slightly-uncomfortable garment in order to look appropriate in a formal setting. He is usually cajoled into it by his mage girlfriends. Both boundary-crossing identities use personal presentation in order to create a way of conditionally fitting in, just for a little while, despite the widespread threats against them from normative society. Geralt complains that doublets make him uncomfortable, which seems in slightly poor taste when talking to someone literally wearing a corset and heels, but as mentioned above, doublets were a similar technology for straightening the body. On the surface, this begrudging attitude looks like an expression of a certain kind of rugged masculinity, even though by making him more attractive to the women in his life the doublet might be expected to enhance his performance of desirable manliness.

The reading of these moments through disability studies takes this into a different direction. Disability consultant for tabletop games Sara Thompson has argued that Geralt is disabled, because the novels repeatedly state that he is living with a chronic pain condition. This should make us read his expressions of physical discomfort differently. In addition to this, Geralt is repeatedly called out for being affectively different to humans, who perceive him as not experiencing emotion at all. It is clear that this is not true – he clearly responds emotionally to events around him, and extends empathy to creatures that do not receive it from human society. In our own world, this “double empathy problem” (others cannot empathise with him, and thus he is read as lacking empathy) is closely connected to neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is also connected to diversity in sensory processing, which is easy to read onto witchers given that they are literally able to sense things that others cannot.

As one counts the various taxes that the body-mind pays for admission into these spaces, the act of masking seems to bind queerness and disability together. In Authoring Autism, Neuroqueer scholar Remi Yergeau makes a strong case for such a connection.

What [the clinical construction of] autism provides is a backdoor pathologization of queerness, one in which clinicians and lay publics alike seek out deviant behaviors and affectations and attempt to straighten them […] in its past and present clinical formations, autism is contextually situated within societal responses to and of gay panic.

Remi Yergeau, Authoring Autism, 2017

Queerness haunts The Witcher 3 because it is not able to rise above the conditions of its production. It is a conservative product made to generate capital for bosses in a country with escalating restrictions on expressions of LGBTQ+ identity. At the same time, every sufficiently large AAA studio has queer developers, often finding ways to allow queerness to hide out in the shadows of its narrative. AAA games overwhelmingly keep it subtextual, while piling on enough normativity to allow them to pass as nonthreatening – there is a lot of masking happening on all levels. The fact that, according to a teleological view of “progress”, LGBTQ+ representation in one of the largest media franchises of recent years probably should not be such a difficult act of threading the needle, makes it all the more haunting. Queerness is not fully absent, but present to those who can sense it, as the ghost of the future that did not happen.

Like every ghost story, divergence is explained away with a more palatable narrative. Geralt’s discomfort in doublets is easily explained away as a masculine displeasure at being pushed into unmasculine activities such as dressing up and being diplomatic. Dandelion’s queerness is disavowed in a way that reads as particularly homophobic, as his queer-coded dress sense seems primarily used to signal ineptitude and weakness. When shopping for a doublet, Geralt ends up in an unnecessarily uncomfortable situation, in which even the most polite dialogue options involve clarifying that Dandelion had not had sex with a gender-non-conforming person who Geralt seems to consider as a man, and tersely rejecting the opportunity to share in the joy this person gets from wearing a dress. It is difficult to read the tone here as anything other than a homophobic concern that Dandelion might have deviated from heterosexuality, and a transmisogynistic discomfort around someone who presents themself in a genderfluid way.

The awkward effort put into this disavowal is a serious weakness of The Witcher 3‘s storytelling. This is a game that constantly shows you alternative families made up of ragtag groups of outsiders, and yet it always has to reaffirm that these alternative families are not queer. Geralt is a father-by-destiny with his nonreproductive non-exclusive partner, and his child has two other parents, plus a number of close family-like relationships with Geralt’s extended chosen family. And yet, we must be reminded before the game wraps up that Geralt’s family is still heterosexual and monogamous. Non-monogamy is not considered possible except by deception. So, despite the gameplay actively encouraging you to have Geralt get emotionally and physically entangled with multiple partners, with no indication that there might be friction or misgivings from Geralt’s side about having a polyfocal romantic life, he will still be punished if you have him pursue multiple relationships. Megan Blythe-Adams and Nathan Rambukkhana have argued that “in The Witcher series, the player cannot make this fruitful transgression into queer discovery […] the game’s array of sexual partners acts as a kind of buffer against queer possibility,” going on to point out that such narratives “force players to be either monogamous, cheaters, or creeps because they deny them alternative choices.”

As I write this, I imagine that my very blurry framing of queerness as neurodivergent and non-monogamous might meet objections from people whose queerness is not non-monogamous, or whose neurodivergence is not queer. But what I hope is that by following events connected to Geralt’s discomfort with doublets, it’s possible to see that despite the myriad specifities of our own individual experiences, The Witcher 3‘s discomfort with queerness cannot be separated from its discomfort with disability or non-monogamy. And of course, I haven’t even touched on the bizarre whiteness of this game’s imagined society. Given that these axes of oppression are bound together in the cultural production of difference, we have every reason to treat the issues themselves as intrinsically connected to one another.

The Witcher 3 feels to me like a conservative game haunted by disavowed queer possibility, because it cannot imagine difference and vulnerability as something that connects people. Instead, it is invested in always mitigating one axis of difference with several other axes of aggressive normativity. Homonormativity does this too of course. Corporate Pride often fails to recognise the axes of difference that all bind together in common the acts of haunting and masking. The easy-mode version of Pride is making visible that which can mask up effectively – not the nonmonogamous families, or the neuroqueer resistance to capitalist production, or the kinky or the otherwise strange and estranged. It is too easy for Pride to only recognise the pragmatic version of queerness that shows up to a polite occasion in order to do necessary work with people in power. The rest of queerness and its intersections haunts Pride as the ghost of futures deferred.

I think it is a mistake to reduce affect to a single rhetorical meaning, as though our discomforts only had one cause. It is a mistake to think that emotions such as pride or shame are the big thing at stake in the politics of representation and visiblity. Metaphors of masking and haunting reveal the strategies that we use to navigate a hostile world, and provide an alternative to either rejecting something like The Witcher 3 entirely for its obvious homophobia and misogyny, or inadvertently showering it with false praise in the course of reclaiming it as “feminist and queer, actually”. The masking and haunting that surround Geralt are at work in the production of this kind of high-budget media commodity, and in the day-to-day strategies of queer visibility.


Other writing about The Witcher:

Megan Blythe-Adams, Nathan Rambukkana (2018) “’Why do I have to make a choice? Maybe the three of us could, uh…’: Non-Monogamy in Videogame Narratives”

Elizabeth Ballou (2018) “Where The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt Goes Wrong in Depicting Women (and Why it Matters)”

Khee Hoon Chan (2018) “Geralt of Rivia, Anthropologist”

Tauriq Moosa (2015) “Colorblind: On The Witcher 3, Rust, and gaming’s race problem”

Megan Patterson (2016) “How Inconsistent, Sexist Fashion Hurts Worldbuilding in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Sara Thompson (2020), “Geralt of Rivia: A Disabled Protagonist”


Ben Berman Ghan (2020) “Queer Time Machines: Hauntologies of Literature” Terse Journal

Mark Fisher (2013) Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology, and Lost Futures Zero Books

Elizabeth Freeman (2010) Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories Duke University Press

Hayeur-Smith, M., Lucas, G., & Mould, Q. (2019). Men in Black: Performing masculinity in 17th- and 18th-century Iceland. Journal of Social Archaeology, 19(2), 229–254.

Sam MacBean (2016) “The Gal Pal Epidemic” Celebrity Studies 7(2)

Mitchell et al. (2021) Autism and the double empathy problem: Implications for development and mental health Developmental Psychology 39:1

Eve Ng (2017), “Between text, paratext, and context: Queerbaiting and the contemporary media landscape” Transformative Works 24

Remi Yergeau (2017) Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness Duke University Press