Meet the faculty: Amanda Cote, assistant professor of media studies with a focus on game studies

Amanda Cote
Story by Eric Schucht

Hometown: Burlington, Connecticut

Primary research interests: Identity, representation, video games

Favorite quote: “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” —Ginny Weasley, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”

Say “hello!”: Follow her on Twitter @accote

Video games have long been considered the domain of men and boys. But, with the recent rise of new types of games, including social, mobile and casual games, female gamers are becoming a big — and growing — part of the gaming community.

At the same time, many events, including the “Gamergate” controversy of 2014, have made it clear that some gamers would prefer to keep games a “boy’s club.” So how do women gamers deal with this? Why do they stay in a space where they’re regularly bullied, and what do they do to make a difference?

Incoming SOJC faculty member Amanda Cote is on the case.

Cote is joining the SOJC as an assistant professor of media studies with a focus on game studies. She completed her Ph.D. in communication studies at the University of Michigan in 2016 and served there as the Howard R. Marsh Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow. Her work focuses on the industry and culture of video games, with an emphasis on gender, representation and issues of technological access.

We got the chance to sit down and talk to her about her background and research.

Why did you decide to come to the SOJC?

My whole background consists of having gone to public schools, so when I was applying for a job as a professor my ideal position was also in a public school. I want to give back to the system that got me where I am. Also, the jobs at the SOJC were particularly interesting. I applied to the one in game studies as well as the one focused on intersectionality because a lot of my work deals with identity and representation. The fact they were hiring for two positions I was interested in meant that they were having the types of conversations I wanted to be part of. The SOJC really stood out to me for that reason.

What are do you hope to accomplish at the SOJC, and what are you most excited for?

I hope we can create some really good game studies classes and produce some cutting-edge game studies research. The SOJC has hired Maxwell Foxman out of Columbia as well. I'm really excited that they're bringing in two of us to start a game studies curriculum.

At Michigan, I was able to teach one or two classes about games, but I'm hoping we can make a game-specific trajectory within the program for people who are interested in more than just an intro to game studies. And I'm really interested in working with people in other departments — I know in the College of Design they already have a few people who have graduated and founded their own game companies. Combining that hands-on experience with a media studies background would be really exciting.

What is it about game studies that draws your interest?

I fell into it a little bit by accident when I was an undergrad. It was competitive to get into the media studies major. I was sitting there, staring at my application and wondering, "What can I write about that would be unique?" And a video game topic came to mind: World of Warcraft had a bunch of holidays going on in the game. They were celebrating Valentine's Day and the Chinese New Year at the same time, and I thought that was a really interesting example of how a video game makes international spaces closer. So I wrote about video games, and then I never really stopped. The more I got into what people are doing in games studies, the more I thought there were a lot of interesting questions that hadn't been answered yet.

The identity and intersectionality part of it comes from my experience as a woman involved in video game spaces. There are a lot of assumptions that video games are for men. There's a history that has made video games a very masculinized space, but women have also always been playing them at the same time. I was really interested in why women would put themselves in this space that's exclusionary in so many ways and what they got out of it. I began looking at that and eventually moved on to other aspects of identity, like race and sexuality.

Why do games studies matter?

Game studies is important because video games are a huge medium. They're everywhere and people are playing them all the time. They also matter for the same reason that all representation matters. Representation tells us who we are and who we could be, or how we should be or could be imagining the world around us. What video games contribute to those kinds of ideologies and imaginings of the world hasn’t been studied in that much depth yet.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Prior to my move, I was an exercise instructor. I taught barre, HIIT and kickboxing classes. I'm not sure what I'm going to do now in Eugene. I'll probably find something similar. I also compete in ballroom dance as a hobby — because academia requires a lot of sitting, reading and working on my computer all day, I had to find something active. Those are my “go-tos.”

Eric Schucht ’18 recently graduated from the UO School of Journalism and Communication with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a minor in multimedia and a certificate in film studies. He was an intern for the SOJC’s Communication Office for a year, interned at the alternative The Inlander this spring, and worked for the Roseburg News-Review as a Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism reporting intern this summer. He has also written for the Daily Emerald, Around the O, The Cottage Grove Sentinel and The Creswell Chronicle.