Masculinity and Video Games

Masculinity and Video Games

This paper was presented at the Southwest Popular / American Cultural Association conference in Albuquerque, NM on February 7, 2018.

The use and reuse of the epic and mythic West has been iterated in many forms throughout the years. This portrayed West, however, as Daniel R. Maher writes “is the copy of a copy of a fiction.” [1] The “copy of a copy of a fiction” goes back to the middle 19th century, but it was always an invention – an invention that sought to reorder and reorganize how society understood and imagined itself. Dime novels in the mid-19th century used Davy Crockett to encapsulate the individual and the West; Buffalo Bill and his Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World brought the “adventures” of Western settlement and war to large arenas in the East in the late 19th century; Films, beginning with The Great Train Robbery in 1903, and later T.V. in the 1950s began to infuse the tropes of a gendered, ordered, and necessarily controlled West; Film and T.V. copied the copies of the fiction and presented a mythic representation of the “Old West,” further enhancing the idea of a lawless West needing order. Video / arcade games have more recently incorporated, or layered, a new copy of the mythic West with its concomitant masculinity and violence into this newest medium. As video / arcade games rose in relevance and popularity in the 1970s, they borrowed heavily from the well of established western myths. Early versions of these video games included titles such as Gun Fight, Boot Hill, and High Noon. While rather simple in form and action, they contained the essential copied forms of earlier mediums. As video game technology improved, the gaming platforms provided a different and more immersive experience for gamers. And while the incorporation of the Western narrative has become more complex in many of these games, they all maintain a connection to the violence and the individual cowboy of western myth –  the copy of a copy ad nauseam. Many of these more recent games have garnered a strong following and some critical acclaim, including GUN, Call of Juarez, Red Dead Redemption, Lead and Gold, and Six-Guns.

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