In This Review

Cultural Code: Video Games and Latin America
Cultural Code: Video Games and Latin America
By Phillip Penix-Tadsen
MIT Press, 2016, 344 pp

If you think that video games—wildly popular across all socioeconomic strata in Latin America—are meaningless child’s play, think again: they are a big business and exert significant cultural influence. But video games are hardly pernicious agents of global homogenization. In fact, games designed in Latin America often transmit local cultural and political content, even as they appeal to a global marketplace. Penix-Tadsen argues that critics of video games too often focus on their basic narratives, missing many location-specific references. Decoding the games, grasping their sarcasm and parody, requires a sense of humor. Moreover, video games also represent a form of “virtual tourism,” taking players into the slums of Rio de Janeiro, the Aztec temples of central Mexico, or the streets of Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles. In Latin America’s robust and growing video design industry, Penix-Tadsen optimistically sees a boom reminiscent of the one produced by the region’s magical realist literature in the 1960s. Sensing opportunity, policymakers have begun promoting local software designers, sponsoring start-up events and industry incubators, providing business financing, and protecting intellectual property rights.