Updated: 4 May 2021

A History of Digital Violence: The American West in (Early) Video Game Culture

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 such as:

  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 (1997) (Source).

Central research questions include but are not limited to examining:

  • 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?


ENMMA: European Network for the Study of Minor Mobilities in the Americas

The European Network for Minor Mobilities in the Americas (ENMMA) situates itself within the broader, interdisciplinary field of mobility studies, shifting the field’s attention to minor forms of movement and mobility. The way we see it, mobility regimes discursively produce forms and classifications of movement that are uneven, differential, unrecognized, unmarked or invisible. As a result, minor mobilities are characterized by peripherality and marginality, unacknowledged agency (e.g. in domestic, carceral, or underage mobilities), limitation and failure (e.g. refugee mobilities). We examine their cultural work either as affirmation or critical transformation of mobility regimes. Relying on the Deleuzian understanding of “minor” and Mimi Sheller’s concept of “differential mobilities,” ENMMA aims at conceptualizing the multiple meanings of minor in the context of mobility and immobility research in literature and culture in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

ENMMA research network logo

Figure: ENMMA research network logo (Source).

In our research, we use the concept of minor mobilities as a heuristic tool for examining mobility regimes and knowledge productions in regional, national, and globally implicated settings. Unfolding in four research clusters, our projects take up different scenarios which enact mobility regimes:

  1. Settler Colonial Scenarios
  2. Scenarios of Cultural Memory
  3. Border Scenarios
  4. Fugitive and Migrant Scenarios

As “meaning-making paradigms that structure social environments, behaviors, and potential outcomes” (Diana Taylor), scenarios provide particulars of the scenes and situations of mobility regimes and frame social dramas. As formulaic structures they are complicit with hegemonic discourses of mobility regimes; yet through their critical repetitions they also allow for reversal and destabilization, offering a space for minor mobilities to emerge.


  • Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. “What is a Minor Literature?” Mississippi Review vol. 11, no. 3, 1983, pp. 13-33. JSTOR.
  • Sheller, Mimi. Mobility Justice: The Politics of Movement in an Age of Anxiety. Verso, 2018.
  • Taylor, Diana. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Duke University Press, 2003.

Info: Visit the research network’s official website.