Mission Objective: Carry the White Man’s Burden to Outer Space – The Gamification of Colonization in Dead Space

Andrei NAE


Survival horror video games were recognized in the late nineteen-nineties for their cumbersome gameplay determined by complicated controls and inefficient core mechanics. After 2005, survival horror games started to move away from their traditional game design and to show more openness to the dominant game design norms of the action genre. The new survival horror games sought to eliminate the hypermedial elements that had characterized their predecessors and offer gamers an immersive gameplay experience similar to that of AAA action games. In this article I look at the survival horror game Dead Space (EA, 2008) and analyse the way in which the game naturalizes its ludic functions in order to strengthen the illusion of immersion and how the illusion of immersion strengthens the ideology of white supremacy embedded in the remediated colonial discourse of the game. In keeping with Jesper Juul’s approach (“On Absent Carrot Sticks”) to the relation between the game’s fiction and the game’s rules, I show that in the case of Dead Space traditionally antimimetic elements of video games such as the heads-up display are implemented into the fictional text-actual-world. As a result, conventionally extradiegetic game mechanics such as the inventory now become intradiegetic elements that no longer draw the player away from the storyworld. The realism of the storyworld works in favour of a naturalization of the colonial tropes that the video game remediates.

Keywords: survival horror; colonialism; science fiction; naturalization

DOI: 10.24193/ekphrasis.20.9