Nick Dyer-Witheford, Greig de Peuter – Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games

Nick Dyer-Witheford

University of Minnesota Press, ISBN-13: 978-0816666119, USA, 2009, English
Activism (or better hacktivism) usually conjugates with video games when a new political or highly controversial art-game (or artistic intervention in a game platform) is announced. Otherwise the most profitable entertainment industry is not very affected by political criticism, and neither are the hordes of enthusiastic players. The collective imaginary in video games is probably still stuck on colorful, fast and involving virtual scenarios, but in line with what happened to cinema, the bigger it gets, the broader the implications of its content. This book starts with an excellent (if a bit depressing) analysis of Second Life economy, revealing how the wealth distribution there is unbelievably similar to the real world (capitalistic) even in its mechanisms. The authors have undertaken some impressive research, a fact evident in the analysis of Electronic Arts or World of Warcraft mechanisms (including timely quotes from Foucault), or the intrinsic geopolitics of GTA (one for each different title). The theory behind this is that a few of the most popular videogames perfectly match the hyper-capitalistic complex theorized by Negri and Hardt in their “Empire” best-seller. But this hypothesis is not played as a mere exercise of ideological juxtaposition. It’s more trying to imagine what kind of scope a global capital market invested in game would have and what kind of dynamic forces it would generate. The authors are documenting every passage and they end with an open possibility, that, indeed, is more than welcomed.