Thoughts from my study of Horror, Media, and Narrrative

Joystick Nation

Although originally employed in the context of national identity, Benedict Anderson’s concept of “imagined communities” might present additional means to understand the community structure outlined in J. C. Herz’ Joystick Nation. Through descriptions of shared spaces that range from the arcade to online environments, Herz advances the idea that the communal aspects of gaming find themselves inextricably linked with economic systems and subcultures. Importantly, however, for gamers the community represents more than just a pool of potential opponents:  gamers relish the ability to exchange ideas and information. These individuals, then, do not merely comprise a public in terms of the physical but, through their shared sense of identity and values, give rise to an imagined community.

Anderson’s position also incorporates Jose Ortega y Gasset’s thoughts on minorities as collectives of self-selecting individuals who congregate around a shared distinction between upper and lower (i.e., elite and mass) classes. Although it is unlikely that many minorities or subcultures view themselves as nation states, Anderson’s concept reinforces the important notion that communities are finite; while nations might have boarders that manifest physically (at least on maps), imagined communities distinguish themselves based on networks of shared ideas and potentially transcend differences in class, ethnicity, gender, and location.

In a world that increasingly finds itself connecting through online media, the concept of an imagined community holds greater resonance than ever. Although we cannot discount the powerful nature of in-person interactions and physical communities in examinations of culture or movements, one might also make a case that individuals will continue to affiliate with others in the formation of virtual “states” despite being potentially being geographically dislocated. The present day sees individuals juggling the once clearly defined dichotomies of local/global, private/public, and online/offline, as they renegotiate self-identity and their place in the world.

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