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Open World EmpireRace, Erotics, and the Global Rise of Video Games$
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Christopher B. Patterson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479802043

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479802043.001.0001

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Ars Erotica

Ars Erotica

Utopia \ Aphrodisia / Role Play

(p.112) 3 Ars Erotica
Open World Empire

Christopher B. Patterson

NYU Press

This chapter compares narratives of digital utopia against the turgid material process of factory labor in Asia. It begins by exploring how role-playing video games like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Guild Wars 2, and others shore up evidence for digital utopia by enacting its values of liberal tolerance, freedom, and egalitarianism within a virtual realm. Yet played erotically, role playing offers new connections between the empire and its Asian provinces through playing a role, an act characteristic of the power positions of sexual role play (domination and subjugation). Using Michel Foucault’s theories of ars erotica and aphrodisia, this chapter argues that role playing bounds the gamelike, the queer, and the erotic, as all develop rule-based fantasy worlds with hierarchized avatars or roles. Role play can make explicit the transnational power differentials that function as digital utopia’s conditions of possibility.

Keywords:   Michel Foucault, role play, video games, queer, empire, Asia, erotic, play, digital

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