Ari Gass is a scholar-practitioner with a focus on feminist and queer theoretical approaches to computational media. They are an assistant professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University. Their research draws on methodologies and perspectives from media studies, videogame studies, queer and feminist theory as well as devised, ensemble-based performance and performance studies.  

They received their PhD from the University of Chicago in English and Theater and Performance Studies in 2022 and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Film, Media, and Theatre Department at Georgia State University. 

They are also a worker-owner of Philadelphia-based live performance group Obvious Agency, where they bring game design techniques and technologies into live theatrical scenarios that center player agency and collaboration and aim to diversify participation in the fine and performing arts.

Current Research

Two concerns animate Ari’s research and creative work. The first is a concern for how communities of practice resist, subvert, and otherwise creatively misuse popular entertainment technologies in ways that allow them to more fully express and embrace social difference. The second is a concern with how game design principles and technologies can be used to challenge hegemonic power, teaching people how to honor their unique perspectives while building collective power. 

Their current book project Bad Game Feel investigates the contingent history of the popular videogame design paradigm of “game feel,” the experience of controlling an object in real-time in simulated three-dimensional space. This book questions how the algorithmic processes that are now accepted as industry standards in computer graphics and videogame development reflect and promulgate the cultural fantasies of those that have designed and continue to design them. Grounded in queer and feminist approaches, they explore what’s happening when supposedly solid virtual objects clip into each other; when such objects become difficult to control within physical simulations; and when digital things feel out of sync or out of time. These phenomena—interpenetration, unruliness, and latency, respectively—are often lamented by players and developers as glitches or bugs. Rather than dismissing them as merely forms of error, they instead focus on these instances of “bad game feel” as illustrative of how processes as unremarkable as collision detection and response or physics-based animations have profound cultural effects and meanings. The book offers a media archaeology of these operational logics alongside close readings of how developers and players use bad game feelings as expressive metaphors for experiences of racialization, gendering, and sexuality under the weight of white supremacy, cisnormativity, and heteropatriarchy. Short, playable games accompany each chapter, demonstrating the expressive potential for embracing bad game feel not as bug or glitch but as a horizon of opportunity.