English Language and Literature

Emma Vossen SmilingEmma Vossen received her Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Waterloo in 2018 and is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at York University helping run the SSHRC funded Refiguring Innovation and Games (ReFiG) network. She is the co-author and co-editor of the anthology Feminism in Play (Palgrave 2018) and her dissertation examines the accessibility of games, gamer identity, and games culture. Her dissertation focuses specifically on women's comfort and safety while playing games, making games, and participating in discourse about games in both physical and virtual spaces. Emma is the former commentaries editor, podcast host, and editor-in-chief of middle state games studies publication First Person Scholar (FPS). You can read various bits of Emma's writing about academic publishing, online harassment, The Legend of Zelda, community organization, and The Walking Dead on FPS. She is also the co-founder of the Games Institute Janes (GI Janes) and during her PhD she organized monthly gaming events for women and non-binary people at the Games Institute.

Emma has published on a variety of topics including but not limited to: issues surrounding academic poverty and academic publishing in the Journal of Working-Class Studies, issues of consent and the contemporary magic circle in Feminism in Play, the accessibility of pornography for women and the Fifty Shades of Grey series in Sexual Fantasies, post-capitalist romance and domesticity in The Walking Dead comics in Zombies and Sexuality, and the fetish art of Superman's co-creator Joe Shuster in Masked Mosaic. To find out more about Emma's work please go to www.emmavossen.com

Sample Projects

First Person Scholar

front page of the FPS website

Emma was the Editor in Chief for First Person Scholar (FPS). FPS is an online game studies periodical created and maintained by graduate students at the University of Waterloo through The Games Institute. FPS aims to occupy the niche between academic blogs and journals in establishing an informed, sustained conversation. Their articles are relatively short, thought-provoking pieces that are intended to stimulate debate on games and games scholarship.

Lady Hobbits

Lady Hobbits imageEmma Vossen and Elise Vist made the Lady Hobbits video in Neil Randall's Lord of the Rings class in the coursework year of their PhD. Because of the critiques they leveled at Jackson’s adaptation of LOTR, Emma and Elise decided to make their own adaptation, using the LOTRO game to make a machinima. their adaptation gender-bends and (somewhat, due to the limitations of character creation) race-bends the main characters of the LOTR in order to show that the story is just as interesting and relevant if the characters are not white men. It was very important to us that the story was still recognizable as Frodo’s journey, even with female hobbits. They also wanted to have some fun with the book, bringing in their own politics and making a few jokes that point out odd moments in the narrative, but they took care not to make jokes about the hobbits being female characters.

Sample Publications and Presentations

"On the Cultural Inaccessibility of Gaming: Invading, Creating, and Reclaiming the Cultural Clubhouse"


My dissertation uses intersectional feminist theory to develop the concept of “cultural inaccessibility”, a concept I’ve created to describe the ways that women are made to feel unwelcome in spaces of game play and games culture, both offline and online. At the same time, I also explore my own experiences as a female gamer and academic in the 2010s, using projects I have been a part of as a means of reflecting on developments in the broader culture.

Download and read Emma's dissertation, “On the Cultural Inaccessibility of Gaming: Invading, Creating, and Reclaiming the Cultural Clubhouse.” While this is a PhD dissertation, it was written with a public audience in mind, and has been read and enjoyed by academics and gaming enthusiasts alike!

Top 25 Finalist for SSHRC's Storytellers Challenge


2013 Three Minute Thesis Competition


University of Waterloo

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