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Special Issue Articles

Vol. 4 No. 2 (2023): Digital America

A Genealogy of Power: The Portrayal of the US in Cold War-Themed Videogames

August 30, 2022


This article analyzes the relationship between power, knowledge, and an idea of American Exceptionalism in Cold War-themed videogames. The article focuses on three perspectives. The first section engages with how knowledge is positioned in videogames and what role it plays for shifting power dynamics. Next, it looks at the relationship between notable historio-political events—such as Ronald Reagan's 1983 "Evil Empire" speech and the United States' proposed Strategic Defense Initiative—and videogames to determine how historical knowledge is impacted when it is remediated in games. The third part of this article discusses how Cold War-themed videogames focusing on the US-American perspective embellish a hero who epitomizes and performs American Exceptionalism by establishing a notion of (moral) power that lies with the West. By connecting these three dimensions of knowledge and power in Cold War-themed videogames released between the 1980s and the present, this article suggests that videogames alter players' perception of Cold War ideologies by associating the US with victory while vilifying the USSR and depicting Soviets as the losers in this conflict.


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