On Video Games: The Visual Politics of Race, Gender and Space
Video games are a defining part of mass visual culture. Today over half of all American households own a dedicated game console and gaming industry profits trump those of the film industry worldwide. Regarding video games as more than purely technical innovations, Soraya Murray offers an incisive look at their cultural dimensions. Utilizing and approach rooted in cultural studies and visual studies, she critically explores blockbusters like The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid, Spec Ops: The Line, Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed to show how they are deeply entangled with American ideological positions and contemporary political, cultural and economic conflicts.
As quintessential forms of visual material in the twenty-first century, mainstream games both mirror and spur larger societal fears, hopes and dreams, and even address complex struggles for recognition. Murray examines both their elaborately constructed characters and densely layered worlds, whose social and environmental landscapes express ideas about gender, race, globalisation and urban life, within a post-9/11 U.S. context. In this emerging field of study, Murray provides novel theoretical tools for discussing games as culture. Demonstrating that playable media are at the frontline of power relations, she reimagines how we see them – and more importantly how we understand them.
Soraya Murray is an interdisciplinary scholar focusing on contemporary visual culture, with particular interest in contemporary art, cultural studies and games. Murray holds a Ph.D. in art history and visual studies from Cornell University, and an MFA in Studio Art from the University of California, Irvine. An Assistant Professor in the Film & Digital Media Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, she is also principal faculty in the Digital Arts & New Media MFA Program and the Center for Games and Playable Media. Her writings are published in Art Journal, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, CTheory, Public Art Review, Third Text, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, and Film Quarterly. Two anthologized essays on the military game genre, gender and race may be found in Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming, eds. Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum (The MIT Press, 2016) and Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games, eds. Jennifer Malkowski and TreaAndrea M. Russworm (Indiana University Press, 2017).
Image caption: Remember Me, Developed by Dontnod, Published by Capcom, 2013. Image courtesy of Capcom.
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