Nunn School Undergrad Presents Research on Portrayal of WMD in Online Gaming

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On the weekend of November 9-11th, the Hobart and William Smith Colleges, located in the Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York, hosted the Pop Culture and World Politics v5.0 conference.  Fourth year International Affairs and Modern Languages (IAML) major, Sapphire Liu, presented independent research assessing and analyzing the acquisition and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in digital online gaming.    

Going beyond an engagement with illustrations of world politics, the Pop Culture and World Politics annual conferences explore how popular culture integrates with and explains politics on the international level. Conferees address topics ranging from comic book heroes to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) to study the different ways world politics can intersect with media and how popular culture is distributed, produced, and perceived in and across nation-states and regions. Concepts such as “global,” “popular,” and “culture” are questioned for the purpose of analyzing how these words have changed over time and the purpose they serve in modern politics.  

Advised by Nunn School Assistant Professor, Dr. Margaret E. Kosal, Sapphire’s research focuses on the how modern digital gaming and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) affect global politics in the realm of international/national security. Over the past decade, the acquisition and use of WMD by states and non-state actors, such as terrorists, has received global attention. Within the same decade, modern online gaming has incorporated WMD as game play elements. Concurrently, the popular cultural pursuit of gaming has been recognized by the US military as tools for cultural training and education. There is a dearth of research focusing on portrayal of WMD in gaming. The work explores the unique realm of online gaming and how the presence of WMD can change the dynamics of gamers to resemble non-virtual actors. Dr. Kosal and Sapphire identified past literature that attempted to explore and analyze this phenomena only to find gaps in the literature. Through observations and analysis Massive Action Game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, and Call of Duty: Black Ops, they show that there are strong relationships and significant differences between the virtual and non-virtual communities with regards to how WMD are acquired and used. Ultimately, the research undertaken aims to contribute to the development of a theoretical framework to understand how emerging technologies intersect with traditional security constructs.


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    Debbie Mobley
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