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Games Without Frontiers: The Emergence and Presence of the Military-Entertainment Complex

Shields Library (Lower Level)

October 29, 2014 - June 11, 2015

The increasing use of digital technologies as parts of military weapons systems and strategic planning raises a host of questions about the changing nature of combat. At the same time, “cyberterrorism” (computer hacking to do material or psychological damage to an enemy) has emerged as a new mode, or weapon, of warfare. Amidst this new cyberwarfare, digital media, particularly simulation games used by the armed forces and video games used by civilians and the military alike, are playing a major role in what some call the Military-Entertainment Complex (MEC)—the products of an increased connection between armed forces and the entertainment industry. Critics argue that the MEC is blurring the line between entertainment and military action, including the line between real and virtual warfare. Analysts of these phenomena see the active use of popular media to recruit soldiers as misleading, see the MEC as creating more militaristic attitudes in the populace, and fear it distances military personnel from the reality of warfare, especially from the human and environmental impact of their actions. The selected exhibit books, articles, videogames, media tie-ins, and images explore a range of issues surrounding the MEC, and the increasingly digitized nature of warfare. This exhibit also features an introductory essay “ The Games of War ” by Chris Hables Gray that offers interested readers insights into the nature of the MEC.

Exhibit and accompanying online bibliography prepared by Roberto C. Delgadillo, Research Support Service Librarian, Peter J. Shields Library, (530) 752‑8266,

Games Without Frontiers Symposium: Intersections of War and Gaming

To complement the Games without Frontiers exhibit, the Librarians Association of the University of California, Davis presented a symposium on the intersection of War and Gaming. For more info on this symposium contact: David Michalski michalski@alemcman

The Games of War

Chris Hables Gray. Lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz and author of Postmodern War (Guilford, 1997) and Peace, War, and Computers (Routledge, 2005) along with many other articles and book chapters in the cultural studies of science and technology.

War is the great game; it is played for keeps. But it is learned from play, as most complex behavior is. Watch the wolf pups, the lion cubs, and the human children tussle for dominance. War, a behavior that is almost exclusively practiced by primates and social insects, is more complicated, and so play focused on learning war is correspondingly complex; it is games.

Shooting to Kill: Headshots, Twitch Reflexes, and the Mechropolitics of Video Games

Amanda Philips. IMMERSe postdoctoral fellow at UC Davis, researching questions of race, gender, and sexuality in and around video game technologies and gaming culture.

The headshot burst into the cultural imaginary with the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, and it has been remediated from historical anxieties about execution and brain death to the eye-popping spectacle of the exploding head to video games, where it has entered a regime that holds virtuosic reflexes as the highest form of capital. By examining the textual and technological history of the headshot, this talk develops a theory of mechropolitics: a way of thinking about political death worlds as they operate in the mechanics of video games and digital simulations. Moving beyond questions of whether violence in video games has a direct effect on aggression, mechropolitics mobilizes aesthetic and social justice critique to unmask the affective structures operating within digital death worlds. These prioritize twitch reflexes and offer few consequences—precisely the scenarios that render police shootings both legible and likely.

Wartime and Cartographic Space: The View from Above

Caren Kaplan. Professor in the American Studies program and affiliated faculty in Cultural Studies and Science and Technology Studies at UC Davis.

Critics of video games often charge that players become less sensitive to violence in part due to the distanced perspective and objectified dynamics at the heart of such pastimes. In my comments I will draw on my research on aerial imagery across analogue and digital formats to argue that the world of video games bears little resemblance to military operations. The kind of time and space produced by contemporary military operations may emerge, in part, through algorithmic interactions and screen time but the players and digital processes of gaming and warfare should not be conflated.