Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Development, 2012) is widely regarded by game critics as an antiwar statement, an Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979) of video games; or, at the very least, one critical of its genre conventions. While most military shooter games are seen as inuring young people to violence and functioning as military simulations, or as recruitment and training tools, The Line presents ethical quandaries, unwinnable scenarios, collateral damage, and the psychological cost of war. This article considers the racialized world-making of an Arab mega-city in ruins as a new heart of darkness, a mythic American construction of militarized masculinity that becomes profoundly troubled under the duress of inglorious conflict, as well as the mobilization of women and children as symbols of victimhood to rationalize a military response. Through its analysis of gameplay, story, and the game's convincing sense of place, this article considers the significance of the physical rubble and moral ruin visualized in Spec Ops: The Line within the context of the gaming industry.
Race, Gender, and Genre in Spec Ops: The Line
Soraya Murray is Assistant Professor in the Film and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is an interdisciplinary scholar of contemporary visual culture, with particular interest in contemporary art, cultural studies, and video games. Her articles have been published in Art Journal, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, CTheory, Public Art Review, Third Text, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, and forthcoming in Kinephanos.
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Soraya Murray; Race, Gender, and Genre in Spec Ops: The Line. Film Quarterly 1 December 2016; 70 (2): 38–48. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2016.70.2.38
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