Giuseppe Previtali

Panel 6A: Videogames, Narration, and War
Session 6 – July 3, 15:30 – 17:30

The Gamification of Terror: The Imaginary of Videogames in the Islamic State’s Media Production

In the last decades, with the progressive introduction of new technologies (e.g. drones), many scholars started to address the issue of the so-called gamification of warfare. Contemporary wars, according to this perspective, are something that visually resemble
the structure and the aesthetics of videogames. The classic example of this interpretation is provided by drones: the way in which soldiers operate the drone is very similar to the way in which some games are experienced by the players (Ruggero Eugeni rightly pointed out the strategic role of the first person shot in both instances).

According to the existing literature, this issue is typical of the Western way to experience war. Nevertheless, as some scholars are starting to understand, this process of gamification is largely transcultural and also involves militant groups, as the so-called Islamic State. This organization, emerged in 2014, demonstrated an unprecedented knowledge of visual technology and media production. This helped the Caliphate to build a transmedial narrative, in which the same main topics (such as victimization, revenge etc.) helped to counter-narrate the Western perspective on contemporary warfare.

A vastly overlooked part of this ideologic project involves the creative use of videogames and the release of videos that explicitly resembles videogames’ aesthetics. The paper will address some of the ways in which the Caliphate used videogames as texts through which strengthen and spread its set of narratives. This involves both the creation of videogames, mods that help to re-adapt well-known Western franchises and the vast use of gaming aesthetics in many violent videos.


Giuseppe Previtali is Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Bergamo, where he teaches Film Studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies in Humanities and is specialized in the analysis of the extreme forms of contemporary visuality. He published extensively on topics such as Italian mondo movies, snuff movies, terrorism and presented his researches in several international conferences. He is author of the monograph Pikadon. Memories of Hiroshima in Japanese Visual Culture (2017).