School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Video Games Meet Queer Activism Meet the Academy

Meet Danny McLaren   

by Niya St.Amant
February 2022

Danny McLaren

How do video games, queer activism and the academy connect? Through Danny McLaren.

Danny McLaren is an MA Student in the Gender Studies department, conducting their research in “queer and trans games studies” or more specifically as Danny describes, they look “at video games as tools of world-making.” Danny explains world-making as “creating pockets of spaces where queer people can exist in the virtual world.” In other words, Danny explores how queer and trans video games can become spaces of resistance to the dominant gaming world that largely neglects queer characters or narratives. Danny came to this research because of their love for games and their desire to see themselves represented in the games. Danny says, “I love games so intensely,” but Danny goes onto contend that as a trans individual, “I don’t see myself reflected in [dominant games]. I don’t see myself as any of these people, and I struggle to see myself even though I love gaming.” For Danny, this research allows them to look at the intersections of technology and body and “consider what transness can look like when I’m not defined by my body.” Danny recommends Ryan Rose Aceae’s Genderwrecked or Anna Anthropy’s Queers in Love at the End of the World for anyone interested in checking out games that stray from the heteronormative and allow queer individuals to explore their gender and sexuality. 

While researching video games may seem obscure in some academic disciplines, Danny contends that it’s the perfect topic in the Gender Studies department. Danny claims, “Gender studies opens the door for you to write about everyday practices with a critical eye, even media that one might not assume to be academic media.” For Danny, it was while they were completing their undergraduate degree in Gender Studies at Queen’s that they were allowed to experiment with video game analysis, ultimately opening Danny up to the topic. Danny retells the experience they had in the classroom, where their professor encouraged them to stray from the academic norm, “We were supposed to do book reviews and I was like I want to do, instead of a book review analysis, I want to do a game. Can I do a game? And [the professor] was like, yeah you can do a game, of course. A game has enough text. It’s literature.” Danny also speaks admirably about the department as a whole and the support it has for its students, “I feel loved and accepted and supported by this department.” Danny also adds, “They respect me as a thinker and an academic even though I’m just beginning.” Danny’s admiration for the department is one of the reasons why they decided to return to Queen’s for their MA, “I decided to stay because I had never felt so at home than I do in the Gender Studies department.”

Aside from scholarly work, Danny is also a student advocate and poet. Danny has sat on the board of Levana, a “non-hierarchical collective student activist group [that] does anti-oppressive, decolonial and anti-racist work” since their second year of undergrad. Danny enjoys their work at Levana because it’s a “space to create and be involved in activist social justice projects.” In addition to their activist work, Danny is also a published poet. Danny often writes about trans existence and resistance. One of their poems, about a drag queen, Videa Gaymes can be read here.

To learn more about grad studies in Gender Studies, please visit their website.