Race

Authored by: Anna Everett

The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533324
eBook ISBN: 9780203114261
Adobe ISBN: 9781136290510

10.4324/9780203114261.ch49

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Abstract

When we consider the matter of race in contemporary gaming culture, a few important contextual frameworks come to mind to situate our knowledge of the topic. First, there is the heightened racial framework of American civil society still adjusting to having elected the nation’s first bi-racial Commander-in-Chief, President Barack H. Obama who self-identifies, proudly, as black or African American. Second, there is the industry framework driven by the enlarged roles of global audiences and market shares to which game developers cater with strategies and tactics unparalleled even during the golden age of the industry’s expansion in the Bushnell and Miyamoto eras of the mid- to late 1970s through the mid-1980s. (Though it is important to add that Miyamoto still reigns as a gaming deity to this day.) Third, there is the digitized race and ethnicity framework promulgated by Rockstar Games’s Grand Theft Auto franchise that introduced mainstream gaming’s most high-profile, if not first-ever, central black protagonist Carl “CJ” Johnson as a must-play character (MPC). Fourth, there is the gender framework following the girl games movement that gave rise to the highly successful Lara Croft game brand at the end of the twentieth century. Fifth, and last for our purposes, there is gaming’s networked online framework that has taken the industry by storm and to new heights of social, cultural, global, and financial influence and significance. A through-line transecting each of these frameworks is the often disavowed problematic of racial otherness in gaming’s historic march to cultural relevance and power, particularly its masterful arbitration and commodification of contemporary identity politics as play. Put simply, we can ascertain key aspects of gamers’ and developers’ racial attitudes and assumptions via gaming journalism, blogs, social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr), and other online fora.

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