War Crimes, Cognitive Dissonance and the Abject: An Analysis of the Anti-War Wargame Spec Ops: The Line


  • Nick Morwood


This article argues that the critical discourse on war video games is limited by a methodology that can tend to rely on theory above content, where political-economists in communication studies frequently argue that games are little more than ciphers by which dominant ideologies—like the pre-eminence of the military-media complex—ensure their proliferation amongst wider culture, particularly in younger players. Political-economists of the military-industrial-entertainment complex have offered valuable structural analysis of the institutional and ideological links between the U.S. Department of Defense, video game corporations and war-themed video games. Several scholars have also analyzed how the narratives of war video games give ideological support to the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. war policy. Though these studies are important, they overlook an important fact: that not all war-themed video games offer simplistic, one-dimensional and affirmative war stories and war play experiences. The goal of this article’s analysis of Spec Ops: The Line is to show how an ostensible war game is capable of turning players against war or, at least, encouraging them to contemplate its consequences.