[-empyre-] Welcome to Week 4: games of empyre

Christopher B. Patterson chrisbpatter at gmail.com
Wed Mar 25 05:40:35 AEDT 2020

Hello, empyre folks - thanks for the intriguing conversations over the past
three weeks, and thanks to Alenda for inviting us for the final week. I
know we're still in panic mode (we've just started in Vancouver, Canada),
though our current covid situation also provides an unwelcome gateway to
think about how games circulate within imperial networks in their material
extraction and manufacture, as well as in their design and development.

In my book, *Open World Empire*, I call games "Asiatic" in the sense that
they are so heavily associated with (East) Asia in their manufacture, their
most popular genre forms, their aesthetic styles, their player base (47% in
the Asia Pacific), and Asia's association with e-sports. I argue that
interpretations and scholarship that does not take this into
account--especially on games whose main audience and whose designers are
Asian--too often see games through a techno-orientalist lens. But rather
than castigate scholars/players for this, I think it tells us a great
amount about how empire works today, and how the "Asiatic" can provide both
a space of economic/technological anxiety needing to be "controlled" (as
with Wendy Chun's "console cowboy") as well as a space for queerness and
erotics to emerge (as in the Black Mirror episode "Striking Vipers," where
two "straight" black men have virtual sex in an Asian fighting game playing
Asian characters).

That summary in mind, I've just taught a large course on games based on my
book, and I wanted to throw some ideas out there that are attached to
particular games and game genres.

1) The mining of coltan ore in central Africa has been a well-known human
rights atrocity that implicated video game companies as well as big IT
companies. The tragic suicides at Foxconn also implicated Nintendo, Sony,
and Microsoft, as Foxconn manufactures every next-gen console. How do we as
game scholars account for material production in our own work? As an editor
once asked me, "Why does studying television shows tell us anything about
the way a TV is manufactured?" I think there are a few games out there that
get at these issues, such as *Far Cry 2* or *Shenzhen I/O*, but I still
wrestle with this in my own work and end up turning to *Games of Empire *and
Lisa Nakamura's work.

2) The lines between appropriation/influence feel very thin in games, and
my students were always eager to point out when a white designer was making
characters that looked or felt Asian. The game *Doki Doki Literature Club*,
made by a white American, riled some students even though the game is a
parody/commentary on Japanese visual novels/dating sims. Some students even
seemed upset that designers like Brianna Lei (*Butterfly Soup*) or
Christine Love (*Ladykiller in a Bind*) could "appropriate" Japanese
styles/archetypes, though most of the disagreement came when white cis-men
designers did this. Where Japan/Tokyo plays the role of "Hollywood" in
games, it's hard to find any games that can't in some way be accused of
"appropriation" (except first-person shooters, but even then...). How do we
understand the anxieties of appropriation, influence and "homage" in games,
when the "center" of games is seen as non-Western, and therefore the entire
medium in the West *could *appear as a colonial theft?

3) In response to covid-19, there have been makeshift "canons" of contagion
and disease in film (like *Contagion*) and literature (like *The Plague*)
that help us understand the crisis. What games would we select to help
reflect on this situation and bring a broader, network-oriented lens? I'm
thinking of games like *This Little War of Mine *or *Papers, Please*, which
both show the (deteriorating) moral decision making that can occur in
situations of siege and closed borders. There's also, of course, zombies...

Thanks all,

Chris Patterson

On Sun, Mar 22, 2020 at 4:05 PM Alenda Chang <achang at filmandmedia.ucsb.edu>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hello, empyre--thank you for sticking with us for this month on games
> during a time when it's especially hard to reach our innate sense of
> play and wonder.
> For our final week, we have a deep bench of guests with expertise in
> games and their multinational contexts. Tara and Chris and I were due
> to celebrate our recent book launches together at the now cancelled
> SCMS conference (along with Bo and Amanda), Kasyoka I met at last
> fall's SLSA, and Souvik and Phill I know primarily through their work.
> I know they can all help us to think about these questions and more:
> how can we expand or recenter games beyond a certain
> Anglo/Western/American imaginary? What are some neglected games and
> game histories? Geopolitical implications of games? How do we talk
> about games in relation to localization, region, translation, and
> colonialism and its aftermaths?
> Or, another possible starting point... in the foreword to Video Games
> Around the World (edited by Mark Wolf), Toru Iwatani (best known for
> the game Pac-Man) writes, "Most players appear to be playing games
> according to a set of rules, but they are actually playing with the
> developers' itareritsukuseri, which in Japanese means 'a gracious
> hospitality that is more fun and kindness than people expect'"
> (translated by Bryan Hikari Hartzheim). Does this apply to all games?
> Do we need comparative or regional game studies? Wouldn't that run
> into the same debates that have beset more traditional kinds of area
> studies?
> Excited to learn from this week's conversations. Sending the best to all,
> Alenda (Chang)
> --
> Guest bios:
> Tara Fickle
> Tara Fickle is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of
> Oregon, and Affiliated Faculty of the Department of Ethnic Studies,
> the New Media & Culture Certificate, and the Center for Asian &
> Pacific Studies. She received her Ph.D. from the University of
> California, Los Angeles, and her B.A. from Wesleyan University. Her
> book, “The Race Card: From Gaming Technologies to Model Minorities,”
> (NYU Press, 2019), explores how games have been used to establish and
> combat Asian & Asian American racial stereotypes. More information can
> be found at tarafickle.com.
> Souvik Mukherjee
> Souvik Mukherjee is Assistant Professor of English Literature at
> Presidency University, Calcutta, India. Souvik has been researching
> video games as an emerging storytelling medium since 2002 and has
> completed his PhD on the subject from Nottingham Trent University in
> 2009. He did his postdoctoral research in the humanities faculty of De
> Montfort University, UK and at the Indian Institute of Technology in
> New Delhi, India where he worked on digital media and narrative
> analysis. Souvik's research examines their relationship to canonical
> ideas of narrative and also how video games inform and challenge
> current conceptions of technicity, identity and culture, in general.
> His current interests involve the analysis of paratexts of video
> games, the concept of time in video games and the treatment of
> diversity and the margins in video games. Besides game studies, his
> other interests are (the) digital humanities and early modern
> literature.
> Kasyoka Mwanzia
> Kasyoka Mwanzia is interested in cultural studies and digital media in
> the global South including: production, distribution, use, and
> consumption of video games; video games as active archives that make
> local knowledge discoverable and reusable; and critical making based
> on situatedness. At heart she is interdisciplinary and interested in
> real world linkages between scholarship, practice and use. Kasyoka
> received her MA in Media Arts Cultures from a consortium of
> universities in Austria, Denmark and Hong Kong. She will begin
> pursuing a doctorate in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University in
> Fall 2020.
> Christopher Patterson
> Christopher B. Patterson (Ph.D., U of Washington) is an Assistant
> Professor in the Social Justice Institute at the University of British
> Columbia, where he researches transpacific discourses of literature,
> video games, and new media through the lens of empire studies, Asian
> American studies, and queer theory. He is the author of Transitive
> Cultures: Anglophone Literature of the Transpacific (Rutgers
> University Press, 2018), and Open World Empire: Race, Erotics, and the
> Global Rise of Video Games (NYU Press, 2020). His articles have
> appeared in Cultural Studies, American Quarterly, Games and Culture,
> M.E.L.U.S. (Multi-ethnic Literatures of the United States) and other
> venues. He writes fiction under his alter ego, Kawika Guillermo, and
> his stories have appeared in The Cimarron Review, Feminist Studies,
> The Hawai’i Pacific Review, and other magazines. His debut novel,
> Stamped: an anti-travel novel (Westphalia Press, 2018), was a Finalist
> in Literary Fiction for American Book Fest, and won the 2020
> Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for Fiction. His
> upcoming queer speculative novel, All Flowers Bloom, is forthcoming
> from Westphalia Press in March 2020. As an organizer and public
> scholar, Chris founded the podcast New Books in Asian American Studies
> where he is a current co-host, and serves as the Prose Editor for
> decomP Magazine.
> Phill Penix-Tadsen
> Phillip Penix-Tadsen is a specialist in contemporary Latin American
> cultural studies and regional game studies, focusing on the
> intersections between politics, economics, digital media and visual
> culture throughout Latin America today. He earned a Ph.D. from
> Columbia University and is Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin
> American Studies at the University of Delaware, where he regularly
> teaches courses on Latin American cultural studies and game studies.
> Penix-Tadsen is the author of Cultural Code: Video Games and Latin
> America (MIT Press, 2016) and editor of the anthology Video Games and
> the Global South (ETC Press, 2019). He has published work in journals
> including Feminist Media Histories, Letras Hispanas and Latin American
> Research Review.
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Christopher B. Patterson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, The Social Justice Institute (GRSJ)
University of British Columbia
*he, him, his, 他*

*Open World Empire: Race, Erotics, and the Global Rise of Video Games
<https://nyupress.org/9781479895908/open-world-empire/>* (NYU Press, 2020)
*All Flowers Bloom*
<https://westphaliapress.org/2020/01/06/all-flowers-bloom/> (Westphalia
Press, 2020)
*Transitive Cultures: Anglophone Literature of the Transpacific
University Press, 2018)
*Stamped: an anti-travel novel <https://kawikaguillermo.com/>* (Westphalia
Press, 2018)
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