Playing Geopolitics. Challenging the Identification, Friend or Foe in a Military Simulation

Authors: Pablo Abend*, University of Siegen
Topics: Cultural Geography, Communication
Keywords: media geography; geography of digital games; game studies; digital media
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In August 2014, user Marve_XT published the so-called Iraqi Warfare mod on several platforms within the community of the military sandbox simulation ArmA 3 (2013, Bohemia Interactive). In addition to Peshmerga fighters and Iraqi army units, the free additional software package contained soldiers and vehicles of the so-called Islamic State. This caught the attention of the newspapers Le Monde and the Daily Mail. Articles named Marve_XT as the author of the modification and suspected her/him to be an IS supporter. Using this incident, the paper reflects on the problem of deconstructing (geo-)political representations in digital games due to a lack of accountability and a distribution of agency in contemporary gaming cultures. It is rooted in the understanding of games as arenas of contrived contingency in which representations are subject to negotiation processes. While it holds true that digital games as designed artefacts transport and reproduce certain ideas about the world, at the same time and unlike any other form of media they open up possibility spaces to induce changes. Using the example of the IS mod, the paper shows how a usual friend-foe scheme can be challenged beyond control of the public. Ironically, this is fostered by the affordances of the game and covered by the moral economy of the community. Furthermore, the example is used to show how agency is distributed and accountability is shared within a collective up to a point where it can no longer be entangled.

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