Touching Empire, Playing Theory
The book’s introduction teases out notions of openness, play, and erotics through discussions of video games. Video games train players to perceive a transnational, capitalist, and industrial form of empire, an “Open World Empire” wherein truth, openness, and digital transparency become elastic terms deployed within networks of forgetting and red herring scandals. When not seen as progressive, militaristic, or educational, gameplay emerges as a frivolous and queer practice that resists easy incorporation into state and neoliberal attitudes, as it appears as a self-indulgent waste of time. To account for the inescapability of Asian associations in games and to trace their transpacific imperial contexts, this introduction uses Asian American critique to see games as “Asiatic”: a style or form recognized as Asian-ish but that remains adaptable, fluid, and outside the authentic/inauthentic binary. The introduction discusses openness, erotic play, and the Asiatic through the history of video games and sexuality, as well as through the erotic methods developed by the critical theorists Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Eve Sedgwick, whose erotic practices emerged by comparing Western modes of thinking with those perceived to be common across Asia.
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