23 Feb 2022 16:00 - 17:30 Online


Speaker: Dr Nathaniel Zetter (University of Cambridge)

A CDH Open seminar on the cultural formation of First Person Shooter video games, the military aesthetic, and the conversion into e-sports.

The cultural form of the video game began life in Cold War experiments with military computers. The legacy of this curious birthplace persists in video game culture today, and it is particularly visible in ‘first-person shooter’ (FPS) war games, where players take on the role of an individual soldier. This talk traces the development of the military FPS and locates its complex place in digital culture today. Video games’ military origins have not prevented sport from coursing through their emerging culture: communal play and contest shaped early gaming, and today ‘esports’ – competitive, often professionalised videogaming – have converted war games into sports tournaments. Taken seriously, these competitions reveal the centrality of embodiment in video game culture, and its novel intersection of war culture with sport.

The talk starts by isolating the presence of military aesthetics in the FPS: the organisation of vision and action the genre has inherited from weapons’ targeting interfaces and that it continues to share with military drones. The present culture of esports wargaming is then examined to theorise how the digital representation of war has been converted into a competitive sport.
The seminar Respondent and Chair will be Dr Siddharth Soni (University of Cambridge).

About the speaker

Dr Nathaniel Zetter is a College Teaching Associate at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. His writing on literature, media theory, and digital culture has appeared in Textual Practice, Humanities, and Critical Quarterly, and in the collection Surveillance, Architecture and Control: Discourses on Spatial Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). Articulating Media: Genealogy, Interface, Situation, a collection of essays examining media and language co-edited with James Gabrillo, is due out this year with Open Humanities Press. He is currently at work on his first monograph, a cultural history of the modern intersections between war and sport.

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk