Book Review: Gamer Nation: Video Games and American Culture by John Wills

As Sascha Pöhlmann stresses in his introduction to USSO’s series on Video Games and American Studies, American studies has been slow to embrace video games as a topic of critical engagement. Enter University of Kent’s John Wills and his book Gamer Nation: Video Games & American Culture, which seeks to demonstrate ‘how games have simulated and begun to reframe the American experience’ (14). Continue reading

Video Games and American Studies: Reverberations of Trumpism in Far Cry 5

Politics and contexts of publication are two interesting focalisers when examining video games from an American Studies perspective. While not all video games are overtly political, many have explicit political agendas. The example of Far Cry 5 shows how real-world political rhetoric can find parallels in virtual environments, in this case the ludonarrative design of a video game. Continue reading

Video Games and American Studies: Weirding the Empire in West of Loathing and Other Digital Games

Stepping beyond the game’s comical and surrealist façade affords a closer look at the ways West of Loathing de-mythologizes and parodies the US West in a subtle, pun-oriented sub-generic rendering of the Wild West, that is, the Weird West.    Continue reading

Video Games and American Studies: Introduction to the Series

Since the 1980s, video games have proliferated globally and had a corresponding cultural impact. Considering that the USA has been the major site of the culture industry driving this development both economically and symbolically, few would deny that video games are important objects of study with regard to American culture. Continue reading

Review: Investigating Identities in Young Adult (YA) Narratives

University of Northampton

Despite divided opinion regarding characterisation, the conference demonstrated that YA fiction undoubtedly offers the opportunity for a wealth of analysis in relation to identity. Regardless of the medium, YA narratives present journeys through the liminal space of adolescence towards identity creation and this, perhaps, is their defining characteristic; whether a cohesive genre or not. Continue reading

Review: Hardboiled History: A Noir Lens on America’s Past

‘Hardboiled’ refers to crime fiction, narratives usually focalised through tough or cynical detectives and centring primarily on organised crime in prohibition-era United States. The genre of noir, however, categorises fiction that takes the perspective of a victim, suspect or spectator. While closely related to the Hardboiled genre, these differing perspectives are notable. Thus, the ‘Noir lens on America’s Past’ promised to interrogate these genres, the manner in which they addressed social anxieties, and their continuing legacy and influence. Continue reading

Review: HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, ‘Endangered America: Processing the Threat of Annihilation’

In the fourth of our review series for the HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, ‘Winning Minds and Hearts: Constructing National Identity in US History’, Jennifer O’Reilly reviews a panel featuring Andrew Monteith (Indiana University) and Mark Eastwood (University of Nottingham). The notion of America under threat has circulated in popular discourse for decades and remains a prominent concern today. In a recent poll featured in USA Today, conducted by Monmouth University, 78% of respondents said that they felt the American way of life was under threat ‘a great deal’ or at least ‘some’. Continue reading