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Title: Rockstar Games and American history
Author: Wright, Esther
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis has two immediate, complementary purposes. Firstly, it studies the way that controversial game developer and publisher Rockstar Games interprets and represents American history. In doing so, it uses as case studies two of Rockstar’s most explicitly historical titles: Red Dead Redemption (2010) and L.A. Noire (2011), while making reference to specific titles in the Grand Theft Auto franchise (1997-). It interrogates the ways Rockstar have represented America’s past, and use references to wider popular culture – for example, cinema, television, and literature – to do so. Moreover, the second purpose of the thesis is to provide a foundational argument for studying the promotional discourses and paratextual materials of historical video games. By using Rockstar as a case study, it argues that we are better equipped to understand how video games represent the past by considering how these representations are framed and sold to players before they are released. This thesis therefore surveys the way that discourses of ‘authenticity’ were and are deliberately generated by Rockstar, attempting to manage the reception of their historiographical work. It studies the ways in which reference to historical ‘facts’ and primary evidence, as well as wider cultural genres like the Western and noir, are used to prop up these promotional discourses and generate expectations. While situated within the field of historical game studies, this thesis employs a distinctly interdisciplinary methodology, drawing on historical research, media studies, and theories of branding and promotion. Over the course of five significant chapters, it traces the influence of the ‘Rockstar Brand’ on their games’ representation of America’s past. It notes the way that paratextual discourses reveal the interpretations of the developer, as well as acting as sites at which game developers actively embody and perform the role of ‘developer-historian’. This thesis surveys corporate material and official communication, Rockstar-generated blog posts and other promotional materials associated with the release of Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire, and developer interviews published by the gaming and entertainment press. Ultimately, it argues that the pursuit of ‘authenticity’ leads to an oversimplification of historical complexities, while textual and paratextual content overwhelmingly privilege white masculinity, confining all others to the margins.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: E151 United States (General) ; GV Recreation Leisure