Currently in the conceptional phase, this project aims to retrace and scrutinize themes and tropes of the American West as part of (early) video game culture. The goal is to historicize the development of spatial formats and narratives like the frontier and manifest destiny as they were and still are represented and interactively performed in electronic media.

A preliminary structure might work alongside genres and focus on particular themes, for instance:

  1. Exploration and manifest destiny in The Oregon Trail [1971, Apple II]
  2. Violence and exploitation in Custer’s Revenge [1982, Atari 2600]
  3. Law and order in Law of the West [1984, Commodore 64]
  4. Environmental and nuclear apocalypse in Fallout: New Vegas [2010, PC]

Flag of the New California Republic in Fallout 2

Figure: Flag of the New California Republic in Fallout (Source).

Research questions include but are not limited to asking:

  • Which key themes and narrative tropes concerning the American West can be found in a cross-selection of video games?
  • How do these themes relate to those traditionally identified in literary and cultural discourses?
  • In what ways do interactivity, player input, and gameplay elements modify or expand traditional dimensions of “westernness”?
  • Can existing toolsets of the Digital Humanities be made productive to visualize the discursive landscapes of video games?