Cultural Code: Video Games and Latin America. MIT Press, 2016.

How culture uses games and how games use culture: an examination of Latin America’s gaming practices and the representation of the region’s cultures in games.

Video games are becoming an ever more ubiquitous element of daily life, played by millions on devices that range from smart phones to desktop computers. An examination of this phenomenon reveals that video games are increasingly being converted into cultural currency. For video game designers, culture is a resource that can be incorporated into games; for players, local gaming practices and specific social contexts can affect their playing experiences. In Cultural Code, Phillip Penix-Tadsen shows how culture uses games and how games use culture, looking at examples related to Latin America. Both static code and subjective play have been shown to contribute to the meaning of games; Penix-Tadsen introduces culture as a third level of creating meaning.

Penix-Tadsen focuses first on how culture uses games, looking at the diverse practices of play in Latin America, the ideological and intellectual uses of games, and the creative and economic possibilities opened up by video games in Latin America—the evolution of regional game design and development. Examining how games use culture, Penix-Tadsen discusses in-game cultural representations of Latin America in a range of popular titles (pointing out, for example, appearances of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue in games from Call of Duty to the tourism-promoting Brasil Quest). He analyzes this through semiotics, the signifying systems of video games and the specific signifiers of Latin American culture; space, how culture is incorporated into different types of game environments; and simulation, the ways that cultural meaning is conveyed procedurally and algorithmically through gameplay mechanics.

Video Games and the Global South, edited by Phillip Penix-Tadsen. ETC Press, 2019.

The time has come to redefine games and game culture, from south to north. While video games are a quintessentially global technology, with game consumption, production and related practices taking place in virtually every country in the world today, players in different regions have received, created and even played video games differently, because cultural and national context impact the circulation and meaning of games in countless ways. Many geographical locales once considered part of the high-tech “periphery” are in fact home to longstanding and widespread technocultures with their own unique characteristics. This is readily evident in the contributions to this anthology, which examine the cultural impact of video games in regions including Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, the Indian subcontinent, Oceania and Asia.

An analysis of the games and game cultures of the vast region referred to as the “global south” sheds light on the cultural impact of gaming in less-frequently-examined geographical areas, offering evidence of video games’ impact on economics, creative production, education, popular culture and political discourse, as well as showing how cultural context impacts games on the levels of development, design, reception and play practices, offering insights that can help us to better understand video games as a truly global medium. The innovative research in Video Games and the Global South focuses on a range of topics including art games and serious games from the global south, postcolonialism and cultural representation, player communities, software modification (modding), intercultural communication online, racism and sexism in game culture, the global growth of eSports, social media use in relation to gaming and the use of games to connect users and communities across the globe.

Video Games and the Global South brings together perspectives from a range of disciplines, critical methodologies and theoretical approaches. Together, the 20 contributing essays advance the critical methodology for analyzing the relationship between games and culture, as well as historically contextualized insight into the cultural impact of video games and the development of games and game cultures across Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, the Indian subcontinent, Oceania and Asia. The work of this anthology’s contributors offers a clear view of how global technologies become locally situated, helping redefine how we look at games and game culture, from south to north.

Los videojuegos no son un juego: Los desconocidos éxitos de los estudios de América Latina y el Caribe [Video Games, More than Just a Game: The Unknown Successes of Latin American and Caribbean Studios], with Martina Santoro, Juan Pablo Pisón, Alejandra Luzardo, Belisario de Azevedo, Mateo Berganza Díaz, María Mercedes, Laura Becerra and Gerardo Funes. Inter-American Development Bank, 2019.

In Video Games: More than Just a Game–published simultaneously in Spanish and English–, the reader learns about 50 Latin American and Caribbean studios, their trends and successes with over 350 published video games. This report helps readers understand the regional industry’s potential as a business, the emergent role of eSports, the impact of video games on women and on skills for the future. We learn about funding schemes, the role of governments in making their industries known on the international market and the importance of forums for exchanging knowledge. The video game industry has not only succeeded in incorporating cutting-edge technology into the entertainment sector but also into other more traditional sectors such as education and health. We invite you to be part of the most important game in history.

Articles and Book Chapters

Media Archaeology and eLiterature,” The Routledge Companion to Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Latin American Literary and Cultural Forms, ed. Guillermina Ferrari and Mariano Siskind, Routledge, 2022.

What Far Cry 6 Gets Wrong about Cuba,” WIRED, October 2021.

Pioneras: Three Generations of Women Developing Games in the Southern Cone,” Feminist Media Histories 6.1, 2020.

Piracy and/as Legitimate Business,” Piracy and Intellectual Property in Latin America: Rethinking Creativity and the Common Good, ed. Víctor Goldgel-Carballo and Juan Poblete, Routledge, 2020.

Intersections of Gender and Video Games in Latin America.” The Routledge Companion to Gender, Sexuality and Mass Culture in Latin America. Edited by Frederick Luis Aldama. Routledge, 2018.

Afterword: Regional Game Studies and Historical Representation.” Forum for Inter-American Research 11.2, 2018.

Prólogo.” Narrativas transmedia, literatura y videojuegos en la cultura. Edited by Rosa Núñez Pacheco, Blanca Estela López Pérez and Daniel Castillo Torres. Arequipa, Peru: Universidad Nacional de San Agustín de Arequipa, 2018.

Letters, Text and Dialogue in Contemporary Latin American Videogame Design.” Letras Hispanas 11, Special Issue: “Paperless Text: Digital Storytelling in Latin America and Spain (1983-2013).” Edited by Osvaldo Cleger and Phillip Penix-Tadsen, December 2015.

Introduction – Paperless Text: Digital Storytelling in Latin America and Spain (1976-2016).” With Osvaldo Cleger. Letras Hispanas 11, Special Issue: “Paperless Text: Digital Storytelling in Latin America and Spain (1983-2013).” Edited by Osvaldo Cleger and Phillip Penix-Tadsen. December 2015.

Landscape and Gamespace in Latin American Videogame Design.” Statements, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, 2015.

Latin American Game Design and the Narrative Tradition.” Technology, Literature, and Digital Culture in Latin America: Mediatized Sensibilities in a Globalized Era. Edited by Matthew Bush and Tania Gentic. New York and London: Routledge, 2015.

True Blood: Colorblindness, Blanqueamiento, and Vampire Ethnicity in Castro’s Cuba.” The African Americas: A Collaborative Project on the African Diaspora in the Cultures of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Edited by Persephone Braham. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield / University of Delaware Press, 2015.

Latin American Ludology: Why We Should Take Video Games Seriously (and When We Shouldn’t).” Latin American Research Review 48.1, Spring 2013.


Journal Issue   

Special Section: “Paperless Text: Digital Storytelling in Latin America and Spain (1983-2013).” Co-edited with Osvaldo Cleger. Letras Hispanas 11, December 2015.


Book Reviews 

Jorge Catalá Carrasco, Paulo Drinot and James Scorer, eds., Comics and Memory in Latin America.” Revista Hispánica Moderna 71.2, December 2018.

“‘Haz clic para avanzar’: un recorrido crítico por la poesía digital latinoamericana.” Review of Poesía y poéticas digitales / electrónicas / tecnos / new-media en América Latina: definiciones y exploraciones, eds. Luis Correa-Díaz and Scott Weintraub. A Contracorriente 14.1, Fall 2016.

Howard J. Wiarda and Harvey F. Kline, eds. Latin American Politics and Development (Eighth Edition).” Delaware Review of Latin American Studies 15.1, August 2014.

Anna Indych-López, Muralism without Walls: Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros in the United States, 1927-1940.” Revista Hispánica Moderna 16.1, June 2011.



Cualquier cosa: Un encuentro con César Aira.” With Craig Epplin. Ciberletras 16, 2006.


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