Playing in the end times: wargames, resilience and the art of failure

Kevin McSorley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This paper argues that the political significance and cultural resonance of contemporary video wargames lies not simply in the forms of militarism that such games engender. Rather video wargames are a signature late modern medium through which forms of resilience are entrained through permanent arousal and continuous exposure to contingency and failure. The video wargamer is a subject who ultimately understands and experiences themselves as a resilient subject, a survivor. While inevitable failure may make the player deeply frustrated, such anger is predominantly directed towards a delimited form of self-improvement rather than towards structural critique of the gameworld, which is ruled out of court because the rules of the game cannot be changed. Wargaming thus serves as an activity in which specific models and practices of resilience training are increasingly made manifest. Wargames may be best understood and critiqued not simply in terms of pre-training for war, but as a space for playing through continual emergency, as an increasingly prominent cultural form where the player learns emotionally and imaginatively to bear the disaster of living in the end times.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWar Games: Memory, Militarism and the Subject of Play
EditorsPhilip Hammond, Holger Potzsch
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing Company
ISBN (Electronic)9781501351167, 9781501351174
ISBN (Print)9781501351150
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2019


  • wargames
  • militarism
  • failure
  • resilience
  • emergency


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