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Playing politics – warfare in virtual worlds

Young, Robert John (2018) Playing politics – warfare in virtual worlds. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

Recent academic scholarship has resulted in the production of a broad body of interdisciplinary research that explores the representation of different political and spatial phenomena within popular culture, often focussed upon the analysis of film and television. Whilst video games now rival the popularity of these more established media forms, the different spaces that are represented within this medium have remained comparatively under-explored. This thesis addresses this lacuna and will show that military-themed video games are constitutive of particular spatial and political imaginaries, and that analyses of the medium can be used to illuminate broader critical debates. Such an engagement makes three specific contributions to knowledge. Firstly, a theoretical contribution is made through the increasing imbrication of approaches originating within International Relations and critical geopolitics. Whilst the former field addresses the relationship between political theory and popular culture, critical geopolitical analyses examine the process through which the surrounding world is spatialized. In offering an interdisciplinary perspective, therefore, this analysis highlights not only the production of a form of political power, but also the everyday mechanisms through which the associated assumptions, biases and cultural tropes are reproduced as commonsense spatial “knowledge”. Secondly, a methodological contribution is achieved through the provision of a framework for an object-focussed analysis of the video game medium. This approach, which encompasses both structural and thematic aspects, addresses the limitations that are associated with exclusively ludological or narratological approaches and provides an important middle ground. Finally, an empirical contribution is achieved through the detailed examination of the urban, rural and temporally-inflected forms of spatiality that are represented within military-themed video games. Here, a focus on twelve high-profile video game titles is used to highlight the ways in which the medium can work to produce or preclude different geopolitical imaginaries. The video game world is shown to be a source of political meaning – one which is used to naturalise different claims about the “reality” of our contemporary geopolitical experience, including what the world looks like and what our place within it might be. These analyses are also shown to provide a means by which it is made possible to illuminate – and even destabilise – the foundations of prevailing critical frameworks, offering the potential for introspection and future growth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Popular geopolitics; popular culture; video games
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Politics & International Studies (POLIS) (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.758318
Depositing User: Mr Robert John Young
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2018 11:41
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 12:32
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22035

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