Transnational Politics in Video Games

The Case of German Military Intervention in “Spec Ops: The Line”

in German Politics and Society
Author: Justin Court1
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  • 1 German, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA
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Abstract

Political claims about the real world are abundant in video games, and the medium persuades uniquely through procedural rhetoric, the rules of behavior contained in computational code. The transnational scope of the video game industry makes it productive ground for interrogating how a game's persuasion might influence international audiences with nationally situated politics. The 2012 third-person shooter Spec Ops: The Line, produced by the German studio Yager Development, depicts the international concern of a fictional conflict in the Middle East and the atrocities of failed military intervention. The game's core procedural rhetoric, which tasks players to push ahead at all costs, cautions an international audience about the futility of deploying military power abroad, a warning that mirrors particularly German political anxieties. The game's depiction of extreme violence—and the player's participation in it—raises further questions about the cultural status of the medium in the country and abroad.

Contributor Notes

Justin Court is a Lecturer of German at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is interested in the intersection between visual media, violence, politics, and memory. He has published articles on photography and the world wars, including “Picturing History, Remembering Soldiers: World War I Photography between the Public and the Private” (History and Memory, 2017). His current research focuses on the depiction of historical and contemporary Germany in videogames with attention to the medium's persuasive power.