Video Game Development in Asia. Cultural Heritage and National Identity: The Philippines

Leader: Prof. Dr. Kerstin Radde-Antweiler

ZeMKI Lab "Media and Religion"

In cooperation with the University of Helsinki Future Development Fund

The role of media for the construction of cultural heritage and national identities is well accepted and partly researched already. However, much the research is so far limited on mass or social media. The role of video games, though one of the most influential media genres especially for the younger generation and an important factor in social and cultural education, so far has been overlooked. We target video games for two reasons. First, they are mainstream media that pervade much of society regardless of age, gender and social status. They are woven into our everyday lives and stimulate the emergence of new patterns of social interaction, communication and shared meanings. Second, games are increasingly complex, interactive virtual worlds in which national identities are, literally, constructed by game designers: they are ‘secondary worlds’ in which national identities are imagined, histories are re-constructed, and traditions (f.e. religion, art and overall, culture) are (re)invented.

Video games actively contribute to construct perceptions of norms, values, identities, and in general, society. In times of deep mediatization, actors obtain information and ideas from many sources, including various media, and games increasingly rank among them. It is thus obvious that game narratives impact on meaning making, in general, and on the construction of society, in particular. Game development and production often is a complex and highly reflected process, among other things (e.g. business interests) grounded in the understanding of game developers and many influential actors in society (e.g. politicians) that game narratives may mould and transform society.

On a global scale, we find two different developments in recent game development: whereas most blockbuster games are developed in the USA for global audiences, many smaller (“indie/independent”) gaming companies successfully develop regional games. Currently, we find new games with cultural heritage content produced in Asia, a development which may be intertwined with national identity building.

This explorative, multidisciplinary and international project seeks to investigate details of how cultural heritage is implemented in video game narratives and utilized by game developers in Asia. Through interviews with individual game developers and game development companies in four exemplary Asian nations, namely India, Japan, Nepal and the Philippines, we specifically analyze constructions and interpretations of cultural heritage in video games – including history, religion, politics and other elements.

Website of the project