The waging of a virtual war against Islam: an assessment of how post-9/11 war-themed video games stereotype Muslims

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Research suggests that American popular culture represents Muslim peoples, places, and cultures in ways that perpetuate Islamophobic ideas, and scholars have examined how fictional television shows and films communicate Islamophobic ideology among the American public, and around the world. While much research focuses on popular culture in the form of television and film, less has addressed how video games represent Muslims. The present study seeks to address this gap in the literature by exploring the representation of Muslim people in 15 popular war video games released in the post-9/11 era. Through the use of a self-ethnography of play (focusing on the play-able stories video games tell about Muslim people and places as well as the images they create) and an analysis of game-related paratext (promotional materials, game reviews, player comments), this study identifies stereotypes within the war games that resemble many of the most common Muslim stereotypes found within Hollywood films and television shows. The analysis revealed that seven of the ten most common Muslim stereotypes found within popular films and television shows are also found within the 15 war games selected for study. These findings suggest that video games communicate stereotypes of Muslims that mirror and perpetuate those found in popular culture, thus feeding into a larger Islamophobic ideology in American society. These findings should concern criminologists, as the negative representation of Muslims in popular culture could exacerbate Islamophobia, and encourage the surveillance and over-policing of Muslim people. Future research should aim to develop concrete strategies for countering negative depictions of Muslims in video games, so as to reduce the Islamophobic climate that such stereotypes contribute to.
Muslims, Media representations, Popular culture, Muslim stereotypes, Islamophobia