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    Minecrafting Masculinities: Gamer Dads, Queer Childhoods and Father-Son Gameplay in A Boy Made of Blocks

    Gallagher, Robert ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2096-3889 (2018) Minecrafting Masculinities: Gamer Dads, Queer Childhoods and Father-Son Gameplay in A Boy Made of Blocks. Game Studies: the international journal of computer game research, 18 (2). ISSN 1604-7982

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    Keith Stuart's 2016 novel A Boy Made of Blocks tells the story of dad Alex and son Sam. Both characters are grappling with what it means to be(come) a man: where Sam’s autism casts doubt on his capacity to lead a 'normal' adult life, Alex’s personal and professional issues have shaken his sense of his own masculinity. The pair find relief in Minecraft (Persson and Mojang, 2011), discovering that the game offers a space where they can learn more about one another while rehearsing strategies for dealing with the problems they face. In its portrayal of a father-son relationship mediated via a videogame, Stuart's novel testifies to the increasingly important role games play in contemporary discourses of gender, ability, education and parenting. Drawing on Kathryn Bond Stockton’s work on gaming and queer childhood, and on discussions of development and temporality from queer theory, crip theory and disability studies, this article interprets A Boy Made of Blocks as an attempt to imagine modes of masculine identity that depart from normative understandings of 'manliness' while eschewing the juvenility, solipsism and 'toxic' prejudice long seen as hallmarks of geek and gamer masculinities. Ultimately, however, the developments Stuart’s protagonists undergo are more about accommodating themselves to the cultural changes wrought by post-Fordism than they are any radical reimagining of masculinity. While this failure is disappointing, it also underlines the important role that game studies has to play, not merely in charting the course of gaming culture’s development, but in illuminating what has been happening, in recent decades, to the very concept of 'growing up'.

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