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Joystick Warriors

Video Games, Violence & the Culture of Militarism

Joystick Warriors

Streaming & DVD now available!

Duration: 56 min
ISBN: 1-932869-83-2
Date Produced: 2013
Subtitles: English

Filmmaker Info
Praise for the Film

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Joystick Warriors
Video Games, Violence & the Culture of Militarism

For years, there's been widespread speculation about the relationship between violent video games and violence in the real world. Joystick Warriors provides the clearest account yet of the latest research on this issue. Drawing on the insights of media scholars, military analysts, combat veterans, and gamers themselves, the film trains its sights on the wildly popular genre of first-person shooter games, exploring how the immersive experience they offer links up with the larger stories we tell ourselves as a culture about violence, militarism, guns, and manhood. Along the way, it examines the game industry's longstanding working relationship with the U.S. military and the American gun industry, and offers a riveting examination of the games themselves -- showing how they work to sanitize, glamorize, and normalize violence while cultivating dangerously regressive attitudes and ideas about masculinity and militarism.

Features Leigh Alexander, Craig Anderson, Andrew Bacevich, Nina Huntemann, Sut Jhally, Elizabeth Losh, Matt Payne, Clive Thompson, and others.

Viewer Discretion Advised: Contains Graphic Violence

Filmmaker Info

A Media Education Foundation Production.
Director, Producer & Editor: Roger Sorkin
Executive Producer: Sut Jhally
Associate Producer: Nina Huntemann

Film Festivals

Press Reviews

Praise for the Film

"Joystick Warriors really nails the perennial question of violence and video games. With a diverse array of commentators from academe, the game industry, and the military, the film refreshingly bypasses the usual tired and distracting debates about whether games cause murder. What we get is a nuanced picture of how large swaths of commercial gaming culture normalize violence, a trend that has implications that range from a loss of everyday empathy to acceptance of an increasingly militarized world. I know of no other film that takes on these issues so expertly, directly, and artfully. After watching only the first ten minutes, I had already changed my plans to use it in class this semester."
- Roger Stahl | Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Georgia | Co-curator of

"Essential viewing for all. Makes a significant contribution to the urgent discussion about the impact violent entertainment has on society."
- Jo Comerford | Executive Director of the National Priorities Project

"A vivid and sometimes startling journey into gaming worlds and their most violent extremes, this film leaves little doubt about the imbrication of empire and masculinity driving the bodily habituations that video games demand. Shifting our attention from the fatigued debates about the reproduction of violence to the vaster and more damning implications entailed in the normalization of perpetual war, the film demonstrates that these forms of entertainment do not simplistically create violent users. Rather they reflect back to us the already present saturation of violence we might rather not be forced to acknowledge."
- Jasbir Puar | Associate Professor of Women's & Gender Studies at Rutgers University | Author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times

"Joystick Warriors is sobering, articulate, and willing to ask questions and seek answers beyond the overly-reductive, blame-game red herrings of whether or not video games cause violence or create violent people. Instead, the film reveals the imbricated relationships between games, the commodification and aestheticization of violence, the fantasies of control and interactivity, the military-industrial-entertainment complex, as well as race, gender, class, and nation. In short, Joystick Warriors takes seriously video games -- from developers to players to politicians -- as participants in and producers of cultures of violence, militarism, and fear. A must see for classroom, community, and gamers especially."
- Edmond Chang | Assistant Professor of English at Drew University

"Joystick Warriors offers a visually stunning, highly insightful and very provocative critical exploration of the immensely popular FPS genre of video games and their connections to contemporary narrations of militarism and masculinity. This is a fabulous resource for teaching about the geopolitics of video games and makes a very timely and valuable contribution to the emerging debates around video games and popular culture."
- Marcus Power | Professor of Geography at Durham University | Editor of Cinema and Popular Geo-Politics

"Smart, engaging, and thought-provoking, Joystick Warriors delivers the latest research on video games and brings much-needed attention to what happens when people regularly engage in virtual killing. It could not be more timely or important."
- Nancy Carlsson-Paige | Professor Emerita at Lesley University | Author of The War Play Dilemma

"Joystick Warriors presents a much more nuanced and productive discussion of violent video games and their effects than the traditional question of whether violent game exposure increases aggression."
- Bruce D. Bartholow | Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri

"As a media literacy educator, Joystick Warriors is a necessity for my classroom. Using powerful examples and expert analysis, the movie weaves through a detailed critical analysis of the videogame industry and their products."
- Alexis Ladd | Instructor at Wheelock College | Co-founder of the Massachusetts Media Literacy Consortium

"Joystick Warriors combines incredible insightfulness with accessibility. Even as someone who devotes my career to studying the normalization of violence and the gendered dynamics of that normalization, I found this video strikingly original and deeply engaging. Whether or not video games encourage violence, they normalize violence and glorify tough masculinity - and this video shows how, even to doubters."
- Laura Sjoberg | Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida | Author of Gender, Justice, and the Wars in Iraq

"This documentary offers a more nuanced perspective on violent games that goes beyond the now stale discussions of addiction and aggression."
- David Nieborg | Department of Media & Culture Studies at the University of Amsterdam

"The conversation about violent video games has been hijacked by high profile tragedies, such as school shootings. Paradoxically, this has allowed the multiple effects of violent games to be overlooked. This video brings some of the complexities back into the conversation."
- Douglas A. Gentile | Associate Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University | Co-Author of Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents

"Joystick Warriors is an unflinching and thought-provoking examination of violence and video games. Avoiding the cliched narratives that tend to define the debate, the documentary steps back to reflect on a much deeper level about the role of militarism in our culture. Gender, guns, the military-industrial complex and a host of issues are tied together in a revealing analysis of why digital violence, and war more generally, have a profound effect on who we as as human beings. A fantastic resource."
- Ian Shaw | Lecturer on Human Geography | University of Glasgow

"More than a dissection of violence in video games, Joystick Warriors examines the broader cultural effects of first-person shooter games and asks what happens when belligerence becomes the go-to solution for social conflict. A powerful examination of this sector of the game industry."
- Stacy Takacs | Associate Professor and Director of American Studies at Oklahoma State University

"Joystick Warriors presents a wide-ranging critical take on the role of military and violent videogames in contemporary culture. With excellent access to leading academics and commentators, interspersed with extensive in-game footage and news and pop culture sources, the film presents its argument in extremely compelling fashion."
- Nick Robinson | Associate Professor of Politics at The University of Leeds | Author of Videogames, Popular Culture and World Politics

Click here to read the complete reviews

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