Critical Distance: Keywords in Play

Keywords in Play Episode 12 - Aaron Trammell

May 14, 2021

This episode we talk with Aaron Trammell about challenging canonical thinkers, race, torture and TTRPGs, with special reference to his open-access piece "Torture, Play and the Black Experience" Aaron is Assistant Professor of Informatics and Core Faculty in Visual Studies at UC Irvine. He writes about how Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and board games inform the lived experiences of their players. Specifically, he is interested in how these games further values of white privilege and hegemonic masculinity in geek culture. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Analog Game Studies and the Multimedia editor of Sounding Out! You can get in touch at trammell [at] uci [dot] edu

“Keywords in Play” is a monthly interview series about game research supported by Critical Distance and the Digital Games Research Association. As a joint venture, “Keywords in Play” expands Critical Distance’s commitment to innovative writing and research about games while using a conversational style to bring new and diverse scholarship to a wider audience.

Our goal is to highlight the work of graduate students, early career researchers and scholars from under-represented groups, backgrounds and regions. The primary inspiration comes from sociologist and critic Raymond Williams. In the Preface to his book Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society, Williams envisaged not a static dictionary but an interactive document, encouraging readers to populate blank pages with their own keywords, notes and amendments. “Keywords in Play” follows Williams in affirming that “The significance is in the selection”, and works towards diversifying the critical terms with which we describe games and game culture. For more on games writing and culture please visit


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Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart

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