Oh, This Game Set in Latin America Shows a Coup? What an Original

“I think the theme of U.S. intervention in Latin America, whether in the form of political intervention to overthrow a dictator or covert drug intervention, is one of the most common ways Latin America is represented. But it is not the only one. this is the theme, ”said Phillip Penix-Tadsen, professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at the University of Delaware, whose outstanding book Code of Culture: Video Games and Latin America offers an inclusive study of the interaction of video games in Latin America.

“We need to keep in mind,” Penix-Tadsen said, “that another element that may be widespread are ancient references to Incan or Mayan temples, which were popular in video games in the 1980s and in the early interest of Indiana Jones. “

In fact, the exotica of Latin American backdrops offers an even more attractive test for the developers of the first video game in the 1980s. Games like text-adventure The Mask of the Day (1982), side-scrolling Aztec (1982), or the action-adventure Search for Quintana Roo (1984) draws from Latin America’s pre-Colombian past and invites players to become neocolonial archaeologists of sorts — running through ruins, stealing graves, and killing wild animals. . These games continued until the 1990s, with titles such as Inca (1992), Amazon: Guardians of Eden (1992), The Amazon Trail (a 1993 copycat of the Oregon Road), and of course, Lara Croft’s debut in Tomb Raider, where he obtained a contract to steal artifacts Peru (1996).

The 1980s, however, were also a critical decade in the history of U.S. political and economic intervention in Latin America, and these changes were at the center of accounts of countless games. In 1982, President Reagan publicly announced the start of war on drugs as well as his administration’s commitment to resisting left -wing revolutionary movements in Central America. This decision was formally implemented by his signature now declassified NSDD-17, promising millions of dollars in funding to far -right paramilitary groups in fear Guatemala, The Savior, ug Nicaragua in the early 1990s.

While the U.S. has a long history of intervention in Latin America, Reagan’s war on drugs and socialism pushed U.S. intervention to new heights and, as historian Greg Grandin argued, made in Central America a bloody laboratory for regime change and political destabilization. While millions of dollars in aid were poured into the coffers of right-wing death squads and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration extended its networks throughout South America, video games in the late 1980s and early 1990s began to introduce air strikes, guerrillas, drug busts, and guns. -putting intelligence officers in Latin American backgrounds.

Initially, many of these games lacked, and even nuanced, methods of their treatment of recent events in Latin America. In the Japanese arcade game Guevara! (1987), the players fought as Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in their revolution against Fulgencio Batista — something that was later edited from the game for its release in the US as Guerrilla Warfare, in fear of anti-communist attack. Also, the computer strategy game Secret Agenda (1988) invited players to take on the role of victorious Central American revolutionaries, giving them the option of pursuing a broad spectrum of economic policies. Even the classic shooter against (1986), while likely set in a distant future with obscure sci-fi enemies, relies on an aesthetic of the South American forest as well as a uniform and title reminiscent of right-wing paramilitaries of Central America.

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