David Leonard, associate professor and chair of the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University, took Emerson students on a journey to look at the last 10 years of video games. Leonard offered a critical reading of video games set in the old West, the new Iraq, and a ghetto on September 20 in the Bright Family Screening Room.
Displaying video game after video game on the projector behind him, Leonard showed students that video games are not all fun and games, but a deadly reiteration of networks of power and ideologies of difference.
Leonard explained that many video games are made in partnership with universities, the entertainment industry, and the military—some in fact were created as simulations for the military and then turned into commercial enterprises. For example, the America’s Army video game was developed as a recruitment tool for the U.S. Army, and was later released for public consumption.
“What we see in this history is video games themselves actually take the representation away from the spectacular, and are very much invested in thinking, leadership, and decision making,” said Leonard. “So you will see games where the emphasis is on you—the individual hero (and more often than not a white male)—leading his team, and protecting the rest of the team and the nation from evil-doers,” he said.
Leonard holds a BA in Black studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a master’s and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. He has dedicated his career to interdisciplinary scholarship, transformative teaching, and research that underscores the continued significance of race within popular culture, the structures of politics, and society at large.
He is the author of Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema and co-editor of Criminalized and Commodified: New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sports. He is also the author of newly released After Artest: Race and the War on Hoop as well as several other works. Leonard is a regular contributor to NewBlackMan, layupline, Feminist Wire, and Urban Cusp. He is a past contributor to Ebony, SLAM, The Nation, Racialicious, Loop21, and The Starting Five. He blogs at No Tsuris.