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Gamer Nation

Video Games and American Culture

John Wills

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Explores how games actively influence the ways people interpret and relate to American life.

In 1975, design engineer Dave Nutting completed work on a new arcade machine. A version of Taito's Western Gun, a recent Japanese arcade machine, Nutting's Gun Fight depicted a classic showdown between gunfighters. Rich in Western folklore, the game seemed perfect for the American market; players easily adapted to the new technology, becoming pistol-wielding pixel cowboys. One of the first successful early arcade titles, Gun Fight helped introduce an entire nation to video-gaming and sold more than 8…

Explores how games actively influence the ways people interpret and relate to American life.

In 1975, design engineer Dave Nutting completed work on a new arcade machine. A version of Taito's Western Gun, a recent Japanese arcade machine, Nutting's Gun Fight depicted a classic showdown between gunfighters. Rich in Western folklore, the game seemed perfect for the American market; players easily adapted to the new technology, becoming pistol-wielding pixel cowboys. One of the first successful early arcade titles, Gun Fight helped introduce an entire nation to video-gaming and sold more than 8,000 units.

In Gamer Nation, John Wills examines how video games co-opt national landscapes, livelihoods, and legends. Arguing that video games toy with Americans' mass cultural and historical understanding, Wills show how games reprogram the American experience as a simulated reality. Blockbuster games such as Civilization, Call of Duty, and Red Dead Redemption repackage the past, refashioning history into novel and immersive digital states of America. Controversial titles such as Custer's Revenge and 08.46 recode past tragedies. Meanwhile, online worlds such as Second Life cater to a desire to inhabit alternate versions of America, while Paperboy and The Sims transform the mundane tasks of everyday suburbia into fun and addictive challenges.

Working with a range of popular and influential games, from Pong, Civilization, and The Oregon Trail to Grand Theft Auto, Silent Hill, and Fortnite, Wills critically explores these gamic depictions of America. Touching on organized crime, nuclear fallout, environmental degradation, and the War on Terror, Wills uncovers a world where players casually massacre Native Americans and Cold War soldiers alike, a world where neo-colonialism, naive patriotism, disassociated violence, and racial conflict abound, and a world where the boundaries of fantasy and reality are increasingly blurred. Ultimately, Gamer Nation reveals not only how video games are a key aspect of contemporary American culture, but also how games affect how people relate to America itself.

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John Wills

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Reviews

This book could prove useful for those interested in the impact of video games in the contemporary perception of America such as scholars and professionals in the fields of communication, political activism, and other social sciences.

A highly original and insightful work of scholarship. Wills demonstrates how a close textual reading of video games can add to our understanding of American life, both actual and virtual.

In Gamer Nation, John Wills astutely argues that video game players constitute a nation of sorts, united in a common cause: to play. In a field frequently split between studies of what video games can do and what video games can be, Wills highlights the intersection, where new, imaginative realms and the historical, political ones construct and contest the American experience of the past, the present, and the future.

In Gamer Nation, John Wills shows us how America's story has been told through video games, and we rediscover video games as a medium for the expression of American mythology as rich and revealing as any popular art. An essential read for anyone in game studies or American studies.

John Wills's Gamer Nation is an important work at the intersection of American studies and game studies that raises provocative questions about the way video games imagine and influence American notions of nation, history, and identity.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
296
ISBN
9781421428703
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction. A New Realm of Play
Chapter One. Games and New Frontiers
Chapter Two. Playing Cowboys and Indians in the Digital Wild West
Chapter Three. Cold War Gaming
Chapter Four. 9/11

Acknowledgments

Introduction. A New Realm of Play
Chapter One. Games and New Frontiers
Chapter Two. Playing Cowboys and Indians in the Digital Wild West
Chapter Three. Cold War Gaming
Chapter Four. 9/11 Code
Chapter Five. Fighting the Virtual War on Terror
Chapter Six. Grand Theft Los Angeles
Chapter Seven. Second Life, Second America
Conclusion. Converging Worlds

Notes
References
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

John Wills

John Wills is a reader in American culture and history at the University of Kent. He is the author of Conservation Fallout: Nuclear Protest at Diablo Canyon and Disney Culture.