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Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: Internet Games, Social Inequality, and Racist Talk as Griefing

14 Jul 2010
Filming venue:

Oxford Internet Institute, 1 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3JS United Kingdom

Games are a radically transnational medium: as Martin Lister writes in New Media: An Introduction, ‘even before Pokémon, the video game was perhaps the most thoroughly transnational form of popular culture, both as an industry (with Sony, Sega and Nintendo as the key players) but also at the level of content – the characters and narratives of many videogames are evidence of relays of influence between America and Japan.’

Internet gameplay is becoming more socially and culturally diverse and ubiquitous than ever before. Yet at the same time, the culture of griefing or pranking that dominates these games and other forms of networked social life such as Second Life and Chatroulette takes increasingly racist and racialized forms. The Patriotic Niggas, a group of griefers who delight in ‘breaking’ Second Life and Habbo Hotel by filling public space with garbage, are assuredly not African American, but resort to offensive racist languages as the shortest route to their goal: the disruption of online community and social life.

This talk recaps the history of racist griefing online and link the current crisis in racial discourse in the US with this practice, exploring the implications for digital games as a transnational public sphere.


Dr Lisa Nakamura

University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

Lisa Nakamura is the Director of the Asian American Studies Program, Professor in the Institute of Communication Research and Media Studies Program and Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. She is the author of Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet (Routledge, 2002) and co-editor of Race in Cyberspace (Routledge, 2000). She is editing a collection with Peter Chow-White entitled Digital Race: An Anthology (Routledge, forthcoming) and is writing a new monograph on social inequality in virtual worlds, tentatively entitled ‘Workers Without Bodies: Towards a Theory of Race and Digital Labor in Virtual Worlds, or, Why World of Warcraft needs a Civil Rights Movement’.

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