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Playing war

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Abstract:

This paper argues that war video games are transitional spaces that connect players to the 'war on terror'. It explores the pervasive influence of militarism in video games and how the US Army is enlisting play as an active force in blurring the distinctions between civilian and soldier. The paper begins by theorizing what exactly it means to 'play', and settles on the concept of 'transitional space' provided by psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott. It then investigates the 'military entertainment complex', an assemblage of institutions and sites that produce military video games for commercial release. Next, the paper looks at the aesthetics of video games, revealing an entrenched colonial logic instrumental for military recruitment and consent. The final section pulls all of this together to argue that video games are transitional spaces instrumental to understanding the everyday geographies of violence, terror, and warfare.

Keywords: Donald Winnicott; military; play; psychoanalysis; transitional space; video games; war

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2010.521855

Affiliations: School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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