Esther Wright, "Rockstar Games and American History: Promotional Materials and the Construction of Authenticity" (de Gruyter, 2022)


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For two decades, Rockstar Games have been making games that interrogate and represent the idea of America, past and present. Commercially successful, fan-beloved, and a frequent source of media attention, Rockstar’s franchises are positioned as not only game-changing, ground-breaking interventions in the games industry, but also as critical, cultural histories on America and its excesses.

But what does Rockstar’s version of American history look like, and how is it communicated through critically acclaimed titles like Red Dead Redemption (2010) and L.A. Noire (2011)? By combining analysis of Rockstar’s games and a range of official communications and promotional materials, Rockstar Games and American History: Promotional Materials and the Construction of Authenticity (de Gruyter, 2022) offers critical discussion of Rockstar as a company, their video games, and ultimately, their attempts at creating new narratives about U.S. history and culture. It explores the ways in which Rockstar’s brand identity and their titles coalesce to create a new kind of video game history, how promotional materials work to claim the "authenticity" of these products, and assert the authority of game developers to perform the role of historian.

By working at the intersection of historical game studies, U.S. history, and film and media studies, this book explores what happens when contemporary demands for historical authenticity are brought to bear on the way we envisage the past – and whose past it is deemed to be. Ultimately, this book implores those who research historical video games to consider the oft-forgotten sources at the margins of these games as importance spaces where historical meaning is made and negotiated.

Rudolf Inderst is a professor of Game Design with a focus on Digital Game Studies at the IU International University of Applied Science and editor of “Game Studies Watchlist”, a weekly messenger newsletter about Game Culture.

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