Posted to the Ethnos Project by on June 5th, 2014

While many scholars have addressed the presence of stereotypical representations of Native Americans in the traditional media of film and literature, there has not as of yet been much dialogue around the newer medium of video games. This is in part due to their newness, as well as a perceptual gap in the colonial imagination between technology and Nativeness. This study offers close readings of moments in two recent video games, Red Dead Redemption and Gun from the location of a Native and white scholar invested in gaming and gaming culture. This work serves as an episodic look into the nuanced representations of “Indian” characters in these game spaces, as well as how the peculiar component of gaming–the interactive mechanics of game play itself, serve at times to reinforce dominant discourses found within the game’s narratives, but that also offer moments of subversive potential. This look into two mainstream games finds both repetitions of controlling images and elements of more complex, nuanced images of “Indianness,” as well as moments in which “Indianness” is mobilized to shore up white colonial projects of violent imperialism. The last section of this paper focuses on the possibilities of re-appropriating these images from a Native playing position, as well as gestures towards Native game developers creating virtual content outside of these mainstream avenues, in such a way as to provide a space for Native gamers to play from less contested subjective positions.

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