Today, as online gamers represent themselves from a near boundless range of possible avatars - of any race, body type, or gender, from an elf to an orc who launches fire from their fingers, Black gamers have found that despite these fantastical possibilities, the online world is no haven from the racism that permeates the physical world. As online gaming has become rampant with high rates of racial, misogynistic, and class-based discrimination, Black gamers are experiencing a form of what Du Bois calls “double consciousness”- where they must not only view themselves but view themselves through a veil of whiteness. But how are Black are gamers dealing with this reality? How do they view this “digital double consciousness”? And how do they form Black identity in a space which is often deleterious to Blackness?
In this lecture, Fletcher draws on his fieldwork in the online game Final Fantasy XIV to engage with these questions and explore the ways in which Black individuals find representation and express Black identity online. Specifically, he will discuss how Black gamers he engaged with reformatted their Black identities through the limited affordances of Final Fantasy, to create a form of Blackness which goes beyond the veil.
Fletcher is an award-winning researcher and Ph.D. candidate in the anthropology department at UCI. His work focuses on understanding how Black gamers experience and utilize games and online platforms to create community and selfhood. Utilizing his experience, Fletcher has led community focused projects to introduce the careers and possibilities of games and esports to youth in Kentucky and has served as a consultant to improve representation in video games. Currently, his project funded by the National Science Foundation and the UCI Presidential fellowship seeks to understand how online Black communities use gaming platforms to form selfhood and new forms of Black identity within games which traditionally have not been seen as Black spaces.