The Ludic wars : the interactive pleasures of post-9/11 military video games

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2011-08

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Payne, Matthew Thomas

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Abstract

This dissertation examines how commercially successful military-themed video games produced after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are crafted, marketed, and played with the goal of understanding the interlocking technological, cultural, and social practices that contribute to their interactive pleasures. The systematic inquiry into the production and experience of media pleasure carries with it vexing questions about how such affect is created and how it is situated within broader cultural fields. This interdisciplinary project accordingly utilizes multiple methods including close textual readings of seminal games, a critical discourse analysis of marketing materials, and an ethnography and focus group of a war gaming fan community to track how these sites of practice give post-9/11 military-themed gameplay its distinctive experiential character and cultural import. The case studies examined herein reveal that the affective dimensions of militarized gameplay are intimately linked to the political and cultural forces undergirding their production, marketing, and reception, and that the games industry mobilizes anxieties about terrorism to entice gamers into virtually striking back against foreign aggressors.

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