'Pokemon vs Call of Duty: Videogames, Popular Culture and East to West Political Diffusion’

The talk challenges the dominant view that global culture flows from West to East/South, arguing that videogames represent a powerful form of ‘reverse globalisation’(i.e. from ‘East’ to ‘West’).

Videogames are frequently dismissed as childish toys with little obvious implications for real world politics - but the truth is quite different. Videogames have grown to be the largest entertainment sector in much of Asia, Europe and North America. The existing work  on videogames fails to appreciate the way in which ideas and cultural values may be spread via videogames. 

The talk begins with a focus on developments in Japan, which is the dominant producer and market for games in Asia. Building on insights from cultural globalisation theory it challenges the dominant view that global culture flows from West to East/South (often referred to as Hollywoodisation), arguing that videogames represent a powerful form of ‘reverse globalisation’ (i.e. from ‘East’ to ‘West’). Japan has been the global hub of the videogame industry for over 30 years, producing iconic games with global appeal such as the Pokemon series, the Mario games, Sonic the Hedgehog, Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil. The talk argues that the implications of such a role in a now key entertainment industry are profound, not only for critiquing our conventional understanding of the importance of popular culture in spreading cultural values, but also for the understanding of Japan’s status as a global power. Japanese soft power, I argue, has been substantively enhanced by the development of its videogame industry.

About the speaker:
Dr. Nick Robinson is Associate Professor in Politics and International Relations of Videogames at the University of Leeds. His work on videogames focuses on the political role of videogames in the militarization of society, theorising gaming, the role of games as facilitators of learning, and the role of videogames in the diffusion of cultural, social and political norms. He was joint winner BISA/HEA Award for Excellence in Teaching International Studies 2013. His research is supported by a four year grant funded by the Swedish Research Council, ‘Militarization 2.0: Militarization's social media footprint through a gendered lens’.