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Ari Gass
Ari Gass
Assistant Professor, Digital Media




I am a scholar-practitioner with a focus on feminist and queer theoretical approaches to computational media. I look at the mechanics of representation within videogames, exploring how the technologies that facilitate gameplay (and, increasingly, appear on stage and in film) impact whose stories are told and how they are told. In my creative research practice with Obvious Agency, a theater cooperative I co-founded and am currently a worker-owner of, I 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. My 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.  

I received my 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

Peer-Reviewed Essays 

Forthcoming “Glitch as a Trans Representational Mode.” Media-N. Special Issue: Trans New Media Art as Embodied Practice. Eds. Ace Lehner and Chelsea Thompto 


2016 Çakir, N., Gass, A., Foster, A., Lee, F. Designing her way into computer science: Empowering young girls through identity exploration. European Conference of Educational Researchers. Conference ProceedingsAugust 25, 2016. 


Book Chapters 

2015 Prosthetic Performance.” Reading Contemporary Performance: Theatricality Across Genres. Eds. Meiling Cheng and Gabrielle Cody. Routledge, 2015, pp. 154-6. 


Book Reviews 


2023 Knotting Postdigital Performance. Performance Research. 28:1, pp 124-5.  


2020 Book Review: Aubrey Anable. Playing with Feelings: Videogames and Affect. Critical Inquiry 46, no. 2 (Winter 2020): 455–56. 


Other Publications 

2020 “Obvious Agency and Creative Cooperative Futures, Co-authored with Daniel Park. HowlRound. 15 March 2020.  


Creative Work 

Ongoing Space Opera, Obvious Agency, Philadelphia, PA 

Game designer for massively-multiplayer in-person theater game. Funded by William Penn Foundation’s Creative Communities Grant.  


2021 Care (About Each Other) Package, Obvious Agency, Philadelphia, PA 

Game designer and producer, worked with 10 interdisciplinary artists to create a package of 15 original theatrical games.  


2020 Main Menu, Obvious Agency, Philadelphia, PA 

Performer and programmer for 30-minute, single-player theatrical experience via phone. 


2019 Barnes Jaw(n)t, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA 

Game designer for interactive museum experience at the Barnes Foundation Museum. (Remount)  


2018 Barnes Jaw(n)t, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA 

Game designer for interactive museum experience at the Barnes Foundation Museum.  


2017 The Parasite, dir. Patrick Jagoda and Heidi Coleman, Chicago, IL 

Game designer for transmedia alternate reality game for freshman orientation at the University of Chicago.  


War of the Worlds, Drexel University and Swim Pony Performing Arts, Philadelphia, PA 

Early-stage collaborator and project manager for multi-site, site-specific transmedia game based on Orson Welles’s radio play. Funded by the William Penn Foundation.  


Go To Sleep, Obvious Agency, Philadelphia, PA 

Performer and lead deviser in single-player theatrical experience integrating live audio and video synthesis with score-based improvisation. 


Press and Reviews  

2020 “Sadness in the Mainframe,” ThinkingDance 

2018 “The Citizen Recommends: Barnes Jaw(n)ts, The Philadelphia Citizen 

Two concerns animate my 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. 

My 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. In this book, I question 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, I 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, I 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. I offer 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.