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Gaming the system for a more inclusive future

Colleague spotlight | Dr Gaspard Pelurson

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Gaspard Pelurson

Lecturer in Media Studies in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities, Gaspard joined Leeds Beckett two years ago. He is passionate about media, pop culture, queer studies and video games, and innovative teaching and learning approaches. He is committed to teaching students about inclusivity, self-confidence and helping them become citizens with critical minds. He is currently working on his monograph, which is due to be published next year.

Tell us a bit about you and what led you to working with the school you are in?

I started as a law and economics student only to realise that it really wasn’t for me. I then switched to literature and came to the UK as an exchange student. When I discovered that I could study and write about video games, which was still unheard of at the time, I applied for an MA in Media Studies, and stayed in the UK. I was then encouraged to go further with my studies, which after four years of sleepless nights and tears, led to me obtaining my PhD. I had a small hiatus back home in France and, believe or not, left the sun and mountains to move up North!

What makes you passionate about your work around Media Studies, and more particularly Game studies and why is it important?

I have always been the dreamy kid in class. I took any opportunity to escape, be it through a game, a book or a graphic novel. Only later did I realise that fiction doesn't have to be severed from reality, both are interdependent. Escapism is of course wonderful, but it is important to realise how much the many media narratives surrounding us impact our lives, this is why I became a Lecturer in Media Studies. My focus on video games stems both from a passion for gaming and the fact that games were too often overlooked. And yet who hasn't heard of Fortnite, Animal Crossing or Among Us? The pandemic showed that mainstream media coverage of gaming lacks consistency. According to many media outlets, video games are now having a positive impact on our mental health, while they were being slammed for being too violent the year before! We must also pay more attention to the gaming industry, which has been growing exponentially. Video games now shape our mediascape, pop culture, and the generation of tomorrow. We need to take them seriously.

How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?

Teaching in higher education is all about collaboration. Whether it is about teaching, marking, planning events or updating the curriculum, everything is easier when you join forces. I haven't been at Leeds Beckett University for a long time, but I can already remember a few highlights. The first one was taking Cinematic Identities students to watch the latest Oscar winners in the cinema, which is always a great communal experience. I have also organised a student trip to Paris with two other colleagues from the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities. It was a lot of fun and, for many of us, our last ‘trip’ before the pandemic, which made it extra special. I would love to start this again once we are allowed to do so and maybe go further (New York maybe? One can always dream).

What achievements in this area have you been most proud of while working in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities?

I am really proud of my signature module, Challenging Gaming Culture, in which I approach games as cultural products, which is often a surprise for many students! During workshops, I ask them to play video games, observe others playing, and discuss the theories presented to them in the lectures. Of course, conversations remain academic, constructive, and critical; we tackle gender, race, class, but through the lens of video games and gaming culture. As part of their assessments, students have to create their own narrative game using free game design software called Twine2, which is a great opportunity for them to become proto-game designers and critics, and work on a creative project with a strict deadline. There is also a meta dimension to it, as they can play their peers’ game and read through the theory they learned whilst playing it. This module has been a great success and it wouldn’t have been possible without the trust and freedom the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities gave me.

Not everyone might be familiar with your research specialisation, queer game studies, could you tell us a little more about it?

While the presence of video games in the media sphere has grown substantially, much remains to be done about representation. Focusing on the queer side of gaming enables us to better highlight where it falls short, but also give more visibility to a growing minority within gaming culture. Queering games, however, does not solely focus on LGBTQ+ characters and gamers, it also questions video games as a whole – it is about challenging rules, goals and purposes, deconstructing and analysing narratives and gameplay, with an overall aim to promote a more inclusive gaming community and practice. It would be a mistake to assume that these debates are limited to the gaming subculture. What happens in the gaming world is directly linked to more global conversations about digital presence and societal inequalities, and it constitutes a rich platform to explore alternatives and solutions.

Dr Gaspard Pelurson

Lecturer in Media Studies in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities, Gaspard joined Leeds Beckett two years ago. He is passionate about media, pop culture, queer studies and video games, and innovative teaching and learning approaches. He is committed to teaching students about inclusivity, self-confidence and helping them become citizens with critical minds. He is currently working on his monograph, which is due to be published next year.

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