Phillip Penix-Tadsen – Cultural Code: Video Games and Latin America


The MIT Press, ISBN: 978-0262034050, English, 344 pages, 2016, USA

Building upon classic work such as that by anthropologist Roger Callois, Penix-Tadsen contributes to contemporary game studies discourses with his cultural research on Latin American culture. The project has two core aims: to understand the place of video games in culture and to look at how culture is represented in video games, or, in other words, “How Games use Culture and How Culture Uses Games”. The book begins by identifying a series of technical and cultural phenomena in Latin America, enriching the vocabulary and scope of ludology. The publication also explores independent video games, for instance, the brilliant game Papo & Yo by Minority. In the ancient Pre-Columbian Maya book the Popol Vuh, there is a description of a game that articulates play and ceremonial practices in the Mayan civilization. This exemplifies the rich historical roots of ludology in a Latin American historical context. Phillip Penix-Tadsen’s book is able to find connections between socio-cultural aspects of Latin American history and video games, in which the Tomb Raider´s exploration of the ancient Mayan temple of Xibalba is just one example. Cultural Code exposes a media discourse by Latin-American authors not necessarily familiar to an Anglo-Saxon audience, with contributions by authors such as Martin Barbero. It also discusses the ideas of ludologists such as Gonzalo Frasca, who have devoted their life’s work to the exploration of video games from the South. Andres Burbano