Guest lecture: The Empire Plays Back: Videogames and Postcolonialism
In Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry, the ex-slave protagonist Adewale’s appearance in and departure from the island of Saint-Domingue is said to be a definite influence on the Haitian slave rebellion. According to the history books and archives, of course, this never happened. One might argue that the records were destroyed and that the events could have been remembered and passed down for generations. Then again, whose memories are to be considered acceptable? In postcolonialist historiography, the past is often viewed as a colonised terrain where indigenous histories have been eradicated and rewritten by colonising powers. Postcolonial reactions to such historiography, in turn, are themselves prone to rewritings. As videogames research begins to address questions of diversity and inclusion, it is high time that the treatment of empire and 'the global South' in videogames also finds a place in such discussions. In the replaying (and, therefore, rewriting) of history by players, whether a 'subaltern' history that was hitherto neglected or suppressed now emerges is a moot question. This paper will address the key problems regarding the postcolonial (re)construction of temporality and history in terms of how videogames provide a hitherto unique perspective on the issue. In doing so, it aims to highlight a closer connect between Game Studies and Postcolonial theory as well as re-examine how videogames address notions of empire and thereby, also larger questions of race, identity and history.