While video games have blossomed into the foremost expression of contemporary popular culture over the past decades, their critical study occupies a fringe position in American Studies. In its engagement with video games, this book contributes to their study but with a thematic focus on a particularly important subject matter in American Studies: spatiality. The volume explores the production, representation, and experience of places in video games from the perspective of American Studies. Contributions critically interrogate the use of spatial myths (“wilderness,” “frontier,” or “city upon a hill”), explore games as digital borderlands and contact zones, and offer novel approaches to geographical literacy. Eventually, Playing the Field II brings the rich theoretical repertoire of the study of space in American Studies into conversation with questions about the production, representation, and experience of space in video games.
American Studies has only gradually turned its attention to video games in the twenty-first century, even though the medium has grown into a cultural industry that is arguably the most important force in American and global popular culture today. There is an urgent need for a substantial theoretical reflection on how the fi eld and its object of study relate to each other. This anthology, the fi rst of its kind, seeks to address this need by asking a dialectic question: fi rst, how may American Studies apply its highly diverse theoretical and methodological tools to the analysis of video games, and second, how are these theories and methods in turn affected by the games? The eighteen essays offer exemplary approaches to video games from the perspective of American cultural and historical studies as they consider a broad variety of topics: the US-American games industry, Puritan rhetoric, cultural geography, mobility and race, urbanity and space, digital sports, ludic textuality, survival horror and the eighteenth-century novel, gamer culture and neoliberalism, terrorism and agency, algorithm culture, glitches, theme parks, historical guilt, visual art, sonic meaning-making, and nonverbal gameplay.
Contributions by Jon Adams, Nathalie Aghoro, Alexandra Ileana Bacalu, Jacqueline Blank, David Callahan, Sebastian Domsch, Manuel Franz, Michael Fuchs, Henning Jansen, Veronika Keller, Martin Lüthe, Patricia Maier, Dietmar Meinel, Sabrina Mittermeier, Andrei Nae, Michael Phillips, Sascha Pöhlmann, Damien B. Schlarb, Stefan Schubert, Doug Stark, Stefan Rabitsch, and Mark J. P. Wolf.