Playing Subaltern: A Postcolonial Response to Videogames

Souvik Mukherjee


The postcolonial has still remained on the margins of Game Studies, which has now incorporated at length, contemporary debates of race, gender and other areas that challenge the canon. It is difficult to believe, however, that it has not defined the way in which videogames are perceived; the effect, it can be argued, is subtle. For the millions of Indians playing games such as GTA 4 or Max Payne 3, it is a moot question whether their gameplay is influenced in any way by their colonial history. However, when they play games such as Empire: Total War or East India Company, their encounter with colonial history is direct and unavoidable, especially given the pervasiveness of postcolonial reactions in everything from academia to day-to-day conversation around them. Likewise, the middle-eastern Arabic youth playing America's Army (or conversely, mods such as Under Ash ) as well as the gamer from Central Africa playing Far Cry 2 certainly engage with a distinct political consciousness where discourses of power and colonization are involved. The ways in which games construct conceptions of spatiality, political systems, ethics and society are often deeply imbued with a notion of the colonial and therefore, also with the questioning of colonialism. This paper aims to examine the complexities that the postcolonial undertones in videogames bring to the ways in which we read them.