Consensual Play

deadline for submissions: 
April 30, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
The Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds
contact email: 

The Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds invites submissions for a guest edited special issue exploring consent in games. The issues surrounding consent are far-reaching, and what constitutes consent continues to be a live subject of debate in wide-ranging arenas (including healthcare choices, data access, gun ownership rights, and sexual assault). As discussions around consent and entitlement swirl around the public sphere, game scholars and designers have a critical opportunity to explore this crucial cultural conversation through the lens of games.

Games have long offered a distinctive exploration of consent through the concept of the magic circle, which involves voluntarily suspending real-world constraints within the playspace (Huizinga 1938, Salen and Zimmerman 2004; Zimmerman 2012). While the magic circle itself does not explicitly relate to consent, the player’s agreement to abide by the rules of the game world can be seen as a kind of implied consent within the context of the game. Thus, when players are forced to endure unwanted game elements, it can feel like a breach of consent. And yet this imposition of undesirable game aspects can be a way for designers to challenge societal norms by pushing the boundaries of player experience. What may initially feel uncomfortable to the player can become an opportunity to unpack why certain realities are uncomfortable to play in. This perspective recently received attention at the 2023 Queerness and Games Jam, where scholars like Sharang Biswas advocated for the queer design value of non-consensual design. This work is tangent to discussions of abusive game design (Sicart and Wilson 2010) and works of game designers like Bennett Foddy, whose games sadistically enjoy punishing players with punitive mechanics. 

Games can also be a place for players to take ownership of their experience by negotiating their desires in self-imposed rituals (Baker 2021). To play is to participate in a symbolic world, and when a player adds their own rituals within the game space to enhance their engagement, they are actively consenting to play on a symbolic level. Personalized rituals can allow players to “queer” a game so as to represent the player’s identity and deeply engage in a gamespace which may not inherently include them (Iqbal 2023). Mattie Brice and Emma Vossen have explicated the connection between sex play and ritual, observing how BDSM requires ongoing consensual play within a structure of events: participants communicate boundaries and desires, act out a scene, and close with the act of aftercare. 

To advance the exploration of consent within games, this special issue invites contributions that examine how games depict, navigate, establish, and, at times, infringe upon consent. We encourage submissions that offer new insights into the relationships between players, gaming environments, and designers within the context of consensual play. Critical/cultural approaches are encouraged. Activist work that advocates for consensual games is also welcome. Contributors are encouraged to consider a wide range of subjects for their submissions. These topics may encompass, but are not limited to:


●Game narratives that do or don’t ask for/respect player consent


●Queer magic and ritual


●Consent mechanics


●Consent in online and multiplayer gaming


●Ethical considerations of consent within the game development process


●Activist work promoting consent in fandoms and gamer communities


●Sex work and games


To submit an article, please follow the 'Submit' button on the left of this page.


Paper length: 5,000–8,000 words for long papers, 3,000–5,000 words for short articles.


Deadline: 30 April for long papers; 15 May for short papers


Contact: Please write to Kathleen Morrissey with any questions (

Aims & Scope

The Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds (JGVW) is an international, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the study of games and playful practices across media platforms and genres. It is a leading forum for interdisciplinary dialogue within game studies, focusing primarily on theory and criticism of games, the intersection of media, game design and gaming culture, and the performative and transformative dimensions of games and virtual worlds. The journal is open to diverse research approaches including: theoretical, empirical/ethnographical, creative and pedagogical methods, as well as submissions from essayists and reviewers. We are particularly interested in inter- or multi-disciplinary contributions that connect scholars across multiple discourses 

Download the Notes for Contributors above for information on format and style of submissions. If you need this document in a more accessible format, please contact Find more information on Intellect's Accessibility page.


All articles submitted should be original work and must not be under consideration by other publications.


Journal contributors will receive a free PDF copy of their final work upon publication. Print copies of the journal may also be purchased by contributors at half price.

Peer Review Policy

All articles undergo initial editorial screening either by the journal's Editorial Team and/or incumbent Guest Editors. Articles then undergo a rigorous anonymous peer review by two referees, following the guidance in Intellect's 'Peer review instructions'. Based on this feedback, the Editors will communicate a decision and revision suggestions to authors. To appeal an editorial decision, please contact the main Editor who will consider your case.

Ethical Guidelines

The journal follows the principles set out by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Read our Ethical Guidelines for more on the journal's standards.


Baker, Meguey. "Ritual in Game Design." Lumpley Games, December 30, 2021. []


Gray, Kishonna L., Gerald Voorhees, and Emma Vossen. Feminism in Play. Springer, October 4, 2018.


Huizinga, Johan. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. Beacon Press, 1944. 


Ruberg, Bonnie, and Adrienne Shaw, eds. Queer Game Studies. University of Minnesota Press, 2017.


Salen, Katie, and Eric Zimmerman. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. MIT Press, 2004.


Wilson, Douglas, and Miguel Sicart. “Now it's personal: on abusive game design.” Conference on Future Play (2010).


Biswas, Sharang, and Iqbal, Izzy. "The Queerness and Games Jam Symposium." Discussion panel. YouTube, October 14-28, 2023. []

Zimmerman, Eric. "Jerked Around by the Magic Circle - Clearing the Air Ten Years Later." Game Developer, February 7th, 2012. [