In this article, I argue that the multiracial avatars in memory manipulation games turn the multiracial body into a conduit that offers white players an easy way out of substantive reconciliation by fixing past instances of racial injustice via the mechanic of memory tourism. Multiraciality is often metaphorically positioned close to scenes of racial violence across different forms of media, but video games fix and distribute memories onto playable spaces and objects in such a way that multiracial avatars are often literally placed within scenes of past racial trauma to explore and amend them. Here, fixing the past operates not only as presumed racial reconciliation but also as solidification, closing off the past from further discussion. This process mirrors contemporary approaches to race in popular media, specifically within gaming culture, in which the trouble of difference is so often blamed on an inability to leave the past behind. Through close readings of Assassin’s Creed, Portal II, and Remember Me, I explore how multiracial memory manipulation in video games exposes contemporary anxieties about racial difference like colonial erasure, scientific experimentation, and anti-Blackness, but ultimately returns to a status quo facilitated by the multiracial body’s historical function as a figure for reconciliation.
The fantasy of memory editing shows our yearning for a future in which we can fix the past. Our mistakes, our losses, our acts of violence, our traumas—gone. And with them, the lingering pain and regret and (so the fantasy goes) responsibility and consequence. Erasing unpleasant memories is a very old desire. Alexander Pope’s “Eloisa to Abelard,” from which the classic memory manipulation film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind gets its title, was written in the eighteenth century and was itself a retelling of an actual twelfth-century series of letters. During a heated correspondence with a lover returned suddenly to her life, Eloisa (now a nun) prays to the heavens for the power to forget her forbidden lover: “Oh come! Oh teach me nature to subdue/Renounce my love, my life, myself—and you.”1 So much easier to bear is a life unburdened by regret and desire and shame.
Contemporary representations of willed forgetfulness more frequently invoke science rather than God, often in the form of devices that understand our brains as databases with physical locations for storing information, such as the mapping and zapping gadget of Eternal Sunshine’s Lacuna Inc. In this model, fixing the past is also about consolidation, a hardening of the ephemeral into a solid, locatable object. This is in part a contemporary phenomenon resulting from a bit of modern neuroscience (consolidation is the technical term for how the brain processes memory) and the infiltration of computers into everyday life. Wendy Chun points out that as computers increasingly structure society, their ways of operating also influence how we think about the world.2 Machine metaphors have tricked us into believing memory is solid and stable, not transitory as it is for both computers and humans alike. Computers, whose ostensibly permanent storage operations are more visible than the ephemeral memory that aids in the process of bringing archives to life, encourage us to conflate static archives with media in action. Permanent hard-drive storage collides in our imagination with random access memory (RAM), which stores values and information for calculation and quick retrieval but is constantly erasing and rewriting itself depending on the system’s current tasks.
Video games have taken advantage of the storage model of memory to create memories that people can play with. This occurs as a key mechanic performed in the game world, such as the 2013 title Remember Me, in which the player acts as a memory hunter named Nilin who must hack into and alter the memories of key characters in order to progress through the game. It can also provide more of a general conceit for play, such as in the ongoing historical franchise Assassin’s Creed, in which the player is an avatar playing yet another avatar within a digital historical landscape created by a machine that extracts memories from DNA. Finally, memory can become space itself in a game such as in the 2011 sequel Portal 2, in which the protagonist avatar explores the spatialized history of an abandoned science facility.
These games, all of which differ wildly in narrative and play style, share more than just memory manipulation in common: they also all feature protagonist avatars of multiracial heritage, some of the few that exist in the history of video games. By multiracial heritage, I refer not simply to these characters’ visual appearance but to explicit references within the games or their supporting paratexts that identify them as having genetic ancestry connected to two (or more) identifiable racial categories. Nilin, for example, is the daughter of a white French scientist and an Ethiopian Indian businesswoman. The various protagonists of the Assassin’s Creed games embody different racial identities linked by a chain of genetic memories passed down through generations. Chell, the protagonist of Portal, was celebrated in fan culture because of the Japanese Brazilian heritage of the actress who plays her.
This may seem like a random coincidence, but multiraciality itself activates questions about memory, history, and identity that resonate strongly with those put forth by the playable memories of video games. Multiracial bodies provoke curiosity about lineage and ancestry, identity and appropriation, and trauma and reconciliation. Multiracial characters often appear in literature and film to explore the perils and promises of crossing racial and cultural boundaries. Historically, narratives about multiracial characters explore the gaps and continuities between different racial communities. From the tragic mulatta, who withers and fails under the difficulty of her cultural position, to what Ralina Joseph calls the exceptional multiracial, who triumphantly ascends to whiteness, critics have documented a number of tropes emerging around multiracial individuals in literature and film, tropes that move through anxieties about miscegenation, feelings of isolation and belonging, and the celebration of bridging differences.3 Often, and particularly in our current era of liberal multiculturalism, multiraciality is associated with a movement toward the future, operating on the logic that any form of racial purity is at best the unintentional product of the past, and at worst a hateful (and forceful) movement backward.
The temporality of multiraciality is contradictory and difficult to pin down, as the hopes and fears of hybridity simultaneously engage the logics of past, present, and future—what Tavia Nyong’o calls “the miscegenation of time.”4 Such temporality slots easily into gameplay that asks the player to navigate multiple timescapes and manipulate the past in the present in order to secure the future. While all of these games center multiraciality in their stories about the future, it is important to refuse what LeiLani Nishime calls the “myth of the mulatto millennium” that fixes hybridity as a progressive racial formation and instead heed her call to “more productively focus on the function of multiracial representations in the current moment.”5 Rather than allowing the hybridity of these protagonists to slip by as an unnoticed symbol of the future, I will instead interrogate how multiraciality operates in the context of video games and why so many of the multiracial protagonists in video games end up in games about fixing the past.
For starters, multiracial characters add value according to the market logics of the games industry. In the problematic calculus of racial authenticity and games marketing, where the ability to identify with a character based on cultural or visual markers often determines the character’s value, the part-whiteness of some multiracial avatars offers white players a way to relate to a nonwhite protagonist, even while their racial difference hails players of color.6 Here, multiraciality operates in harmony with the mathematical processes that underlie computation (the essential ground of video games), blood quantum (the colonial understanding of racial identity as passed down in quantifiable chunks through DNA), and market demographics. This also alleviates anxieties about cultural appropriation: if a character is at least part white, perhaps it is less offensive to control their body through gameplay. Over the years, scholars have documented various forms of identity tourism in video games, a term coined by Lisa Nakamura that critiques how internet technologies make it easy for white folks to access and play with (stereotyped/cybertyped) nonwhite personae in online forums and games, reifying racial categories and exposing the toxic underbelly of early technological utopianism.7 Following Nakamura, scholars like David Leonard and Dean Chan have written about digital cross-racial performance as forms of minstrelsy.8 More recently, TreaAndrea Russworm and Christopher Patterson have argued for more nuanced understandings of racial performance in video games in terms of empathy (or lack thereof) and erotics, respectively.9
My own approach extends Nakamura’s notion of tourism to memory, which in the context of video games I understand as a projection (or fixation) of identity onto space. Here, I follow Soraya Murray’s interrogation of landscape as ideology in games, which encourages us to examine the mediated digital spaces that players traverse not merely as decoration or even culture, but as central figures in the meaning of the game itself.10 The spatial qualities of memory in computational media allow the player to walk through re-creations of the past as reconstructed from a not-quite-white character’s point of view. While identity tourism concerns the performance that results from the relationship between the bodies of the avatar and player, memory tourism additionally asks how the avatar’s identity extends from the body into and through space, and then how it is subject to the gaze and the actions of the player. While it is true that a critique of identity and memory tourism might erase potential players of color, it remains important to recognize that spaces, as ideology, are designed with particular types of subjects in mind. For most game spaces (and, indeed, for most tourist spaces), that assumed subject remains white.
When body, space, and memory converge around multiracial characters in video games, the effects move beyond play mechanics and digital architecture, giving us access to a memory-building process that resembles (in structure if not in political exigency) what Indigenous scholars call blood memory—negotiation, discovery, fluidity, and connection, all written on digital bodies and in digital spaces.11 The Animus machine of the Assassin’s Creed series locates memory in an individual’s genetic code, then places the gamer in a navigable, playable re-creation of its data. Portal 2 spatializes the history of the exploitative corporation Aperture Science in a sprawling underground bunker, allowing the gamer to take a walking tour of a whitewashed past whose racial implications are only fully illuminated by the multiracial body of the protagonist. Remember Me offers memories as playable puzzles that the player must manipulate to advance. Together, these games suggest a politics of multiraciality that works on and through memory in ways that extend the trope of multiracial individuals as tools to reconcile racial traumas.
In this article, I argue that the multiracial avatars in memory manipulation games turn the multiracial body, already a visible marker of and speculative solution to historical racial trauma, into a conduit that offers white players an easy way out of substantive reconciliation by fixing past instances of racial injustice via the mechanic of memory tourism. Because the memory manipulation mechanics of these games operate within narratives that promise the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past, and because the identities of the protagonists promise that those wrongs will have been racialized, white players are given the opportunity to be on the right side of history—to be heroes of racial justice. This process outlines a liberal media wish fulfillment: it is possible to locate a fixed source of racial injustice (but only in the past) and undo it (knowing what we do now) to make things right in the world today. This backward-looking approach is always reactive, deflecting responsibility for action to address present and future inequalities.
Fixing the past here operates on multiple levels. There is the way that video games fix the past into persistent spatial configurations ripe for exploration and exploitation. There is fixing the past that refers to the ability to intervene in or reconcile a moment of racial trauma, a task strongly associated with multiracial individuals. Fixing the past also imagines the work of reconciliation to have been completed: like memory, speculation can also solidify. The imagined future hardens into the present, closing off further discussion. This is particularly important to consider when multiracial avatars themselves are imagined as solutions to problems of diversity in the games industry, much as multiracial individuals have always been imagined as solutions to racial disharmony. They are the future (or the present? and eventually the past) of representation. This type of fixing also lines up with the demand that marginalized populations leave behind the memories of oppression in order to move forward with racial harmony.
The argument will proceed in three broad strokes: first, an exploration of how Assassin’s Creed spatializes history and memory not only through its digital environment but also through the biology of its characters, laying the foundations for a white multiraciality that must always exclude Blackness; next, a look at how Portal 2 eradicates memory in the body of the avatar, whose ambiguous brownness nevertheless disturbs the game’s attempts to present a whitewashed history of scientific abuse; and third, how Remember Me instrumentalizes the multiracial child to soothe the collective trauma of Black and white racial antagonism in the former colonial bastion of neo-Paris. Read together, these three examples provide a foundation for understanding multiraciality in video games not as the promised future of representation but as potent locations of contemporary racial anxieties and lingering racial trauma that cannot so easily be fixed into the past by new initiatives of inclusive representation.
Colonial Intervention: Assassin’s Creed
In the Assassin’s Creed series, a machine known as the Animus accesses the memories inherited through DNA to recreate the past in a virtual reality simulation. Players of the game explore painstakingly simulated historical locations and kill loosely accurate historical figures in an attempt to sway the balance of a conflict happening in the game’s present day. The games take place across centuries of fictional encounters between the Assassins (based on a medieval group of Nizari Ismaili Muslims) and the Knights Templar, two groups that persist, in secret, in the present day.12 Using the Animus, contemporary descendants of the Assassins and Templars tap into genetic memory and reconstruct key moments in their ongoing conflicts; this science-fiction premise keeps the player situated firmly in the present, while dipping into the past through a memory avatar.
The Animus computer makes permanent the ephemerality of memory by fixing it in an individual’s DNA, lending credence to a number of essentialist racial formations, from the one-drop rule to blood quantum, that suggest that racial identity is passed down in some quantifiable, traceable way through the body. For the first several games in the series, the gamer inhabits the body of white protagonist Desmond Miles, whose valuable genetic code contains the memories of key ancestors in the series’ epic struggle. This formulation—the avatar of the avatar—draws attention to the ways that virtual technologies tightly entangle bodies that carry their own histories, and it literalizes memory tourism by offering players the opportunity to explore famous historical locations, live out key historical events, and meet historical figures in their own times.
By attaching bounded, playable memories to the body of the avatar, this kind of memory tourism locates memory within the body in a way that resembles what Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday calls “blood memory,” or the cultural identity cultivated through personal lineage and community histories that is often simplified into or erased by the concept of race as it is leveraged against Indigenous communities by government agencies.13 Natalie Harkin describes blood memory as “a process which identifies a relationship to individual and collective heritage and to one’s family and ancestors, written through landscape and the body.”14 Locating memory in the body could refer to the biological processes of the brain, but Indigenous theorists also recognize the body as a site of historical reconstruction in the face of generational trauma, destruction of archival (including archaeological) evidence, and settler control over official narratives. This is true of many communities of color: we must discover, rehearse, and carry memories in the body in order to preserve them, but they may never ascend to the status of permanent power in the form of institutional history or cultural supremacy. It is tempting, therefore, to read the slippage between ephemeral and permanent memory introduced by computer metaphors as an opening for celebration, as it provides an avenue whereby we may begin to legitimize those experiences previously considered unfit for historical legitimacy.
Embedded within Momaday’s blood memory, and key to how scholars like Harkin and others engage with this formulation, are notions of cultural and, specifically, biological inheritances. This is a much more controversial set of issues. Blood memories must grapple with the inevitable mixtures introduced by the genocidal violence of colonization: the permanent alterations of genetic material, the ephemeral effects of living between cultures and worlds, and the erasures performed to ensure the continuation of white supremacy. Eugenics as a national practice lurks nearby, promoting the utility of concepts like race as a metric for breeding an improved, pure population and encouraging the separation of populations by phenotype and, presumably, genotype. Nyong’o traces the role of the multiracial person in these nationalist and historical projects as conduits of both the nightmares and the promises of racial equality, both “mongrel bastard” or “secret agalma that holds some mysterious power to redeem a fallen province of racism and racial awareness,” a set of tropes that persists today. Rather than fostering a kind of essentialism, however, blood memory acknowledges the traumatic and sustaining corporeal ties that create a community, even when visual appearance is misleading.15 The multiracial body inherits a set of complicated and contradictory blood memories and is often recruited to smooth out the inconsistencies.
The use of Desmond Miles as the avatar within its framing narrative aligns Assassin’s Creed with the majority of games that employ white male avatars as their lead characters, even though the series’ first historical avatar was Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, a man from present-day Syria whose name translates to “The Eagle, Son of No One”—a curious creative decision given the game’s emphasis on genetic inheritance. Over the course of the series, we learn that Miles’s white genes contain the memories of a number of important white British men, a white man from the Italian Renaissance, and two nonwhite characters: Altaïr and half-white half-Indigenous man Ratonhnhaké:ton, all of whom serve as his avatars to strike back against the white evils of genocide, colonization, and enslavement. These early games suggest that contemporary whiteness itself is a multiracial formulation, forged out of centuries of genetic exchange facilitated, frequently, by colonial conquest: for example, Altaïr weds an English woman who came to his country as a Templar with the Crusaders, while Ratonhnhaké:ton is the son of a British settler and a Kanien’kehá:ka woman.
The racial identities of the Assassin’s Creed protagonists did not receive much attention until the emergence of two multiracial protagonists in 2012: Ratonhnhaké:ton, Desmond’s ancestor in Assassin’s Creed III, and Aveline de Grandpré, the daughter of a white French businessman and a Black freed woman in the spinoff game Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. When Blackness enters the assassin gene pool, it predictably illuminates the racial politics of the series by exposing the outer limits of racial mixing in legibly white bodies. Aveline passes through her home of New Orleans by shifting her identity among slave, lady, and assassin disguises, all of which give the player different ways of interacting with the memory landscape around her, but this flexibility does not extend to her place in the blood memories of the series. Instead of an ancestor of Desmond, Aveline enters the narrative universe of Assassin’s Creed as a memory game sold to the player, eliminating the need for a framing avatar. There is one other playable Black assassin in the series, an escaped slave-turned-pirate named Adéwalé, who is similarly accessible to the player as a commodity rather than as an ancestor.16
For Aveline’s framing story, the modern-day Templars, in the guise of Abstergo Entertainment, have acquired Black DNA, instead of Black bodies, to market and sell to a presumably white audience. This extraction and monetization of Black DNA bears a striking resemblance to the real-world history of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman whose genetic material doctors acquired in 1951 and then cultivated and distributed widely for research without her knowledge or consent. Even though HeLa cells, as they became known, were crucial in the creation of more than eleven thousand patents to date, neither Lacks nor her descendants ever received compensation.17 James Doucet-Battle explores how the scientific and cultural narratives around Lacks and her cells have reanimated the Black matriarch as a problematic yet underanalyzed figure in genomics research that reestablishes racist and sexist power relations in science and society.18 Doucet-Battle’s research highlights that HeLa cells are central to “epistemic, definitional, and methodological” conversations in genetics such as how to identify ancestral African genes in the “admixed” blood of African Americans, symbolically aligning Henrietta Lacks with the figure of “mitochondrial Eve” (sometimes called “African Eve”), a theorized matriarch of humanity whose mitochondrial DNA may exist in us all.19 I bring this up here to point out that by this pervasive logic, it was perhaps inevitable that the first playable woman, the first matriarch, in a video game series about memories embedded in DNA would be a multiracial Black woman—and that this logic draws from an anti-Black fascination with white racial purity.
The introduction of a Black matriarch to the Assassin’s Creed franchise marks the point at which contemporary descendants cease to be the entry point for genetic memory exploration, as subsequent historical avatars in the series (representing Ptolemaic Egypt, classical Greece, and Viking Norway thus far) emerge via the excavation of archaeological artifacts that retain traces of DNA. Curiously, the framing avatar for these excavated characters is not a white man but a brown Egyptian woman named Layla Hassan. Aveline exists on the periphery of the system of memory inheritance embedded within the Assassin’s Creed series and introduces a paradigm shift in the way the series deals with DNA. This shift suggests that Blackness cannot be subsumed so easily as Italianness, Indigenousness, or Arabness into the multiracial white Desmond Miles, or even the presumed white player. This tacit confirmation of the one-drop rule, the racist legal framework that classified individuals as Black if they had even one Black ancestor, conforms to what Ralina Joseph identifies as a tendency for multiraciality to either omit or transcend Blackness in popular representations.20 Murray’s extensive analysis of the racial politics of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation insinuates that multiraciality queers Aveline’s Blackness “in the sense that she stands outside the normative construction,” which Murray also extends to her ambiguous sexual orientation.21 We can thus read Aveline’s sudden emergence outside of the extensive DNA inheritance of Desmond Miles not only as the result of theft that echoes the appropriation of Black bodies and cultures in history, but also a queer disruption in the otherwise unbroken reproductive chain of assassins.
The multiracial politics of Assassin’s Creed play out such that whiteness has the most direct access to multiracial heritage through genetic inheritance facilitated by colonization, which it supplements by the theft of flesh and artifacts. This system of racial inheritance operates within the narrative conceit of a machine that fuses biological and electronic memory and uses avatars to facilitate the transfer of racial trauma. Memory is written into DNA, what is popularly understood to be the code that guides the generation and operation of bodies (calling to mind Chun’s assertion that software itself emerges out of fantasies about DNA), which is then decoded and projected by the Animus, a computer.22 Assassin’s Creed successfully facilitates the appropriation of nonwhite trauma with white characters who incorporate a wide swath of racial difference, except for Blackness, within their genetic codes. Identity tourism here is (perhaps unsuccessfully) deflected by the mediating avatar of Desmond Miles himself, who partially owns the differences through distant ancestry, and eventually by the archaeological harvest system that sidesteps the thorny issue of genetic inheritance entirely.
However, the dubious racial politics of memory tourism remain. Assassin’s Creed renders memory in a way that both reinforces the role of DNA and genetic inheritance in racial identity and exposes how we imagine advanced technology (including digital media like video games) to offer easy access to embodied experiences, even when it fails to accommodate cultural complexity. The digital imaginary of the Animus does not consider missing genes or decaying information but instead posits a readable biology whose permanent storage remains unchanged through centuries (indeed, millennia) of transfers from body to body and body to object. One simply plugs in to the correct body of information to call up any of a number of perfectly preserved experiences. It is unsurprising that racial difference collapses into a binary of multiracial whiteness or hypodescendent Blackness in this system, especially as it occurs within the narrative context of fighting against the forces of white supremacy in the past. The multiracial whiteness of Assassin’s Creed does allow players to participate in dismantling colonization, enslavement, and white supremacy in the past, but only from within a framing structure that upholds the very essentialist genetic underpinnings of race, gender, and inheritance that have long legitimized white supremacy in the present.
Locating Memory, Fixing Power: Portal 2 ’s Archival Adventure
Moving through dynamic environments that are oriented toward the past has long been familiar for those who play video games. This is the structure of influential games past and present, including foundational titles like Myst in which the player wanders around abandoned islands and pieces together the mystery of the place by examining objects and texts left behind. Indeed, the tradition extends back to the earliest text-based adventure games. Melissa Kagen writes of the “archival adventuring” mechanic in “games composed of ludic repositories of material, carefully arranged, which the player turns into a narrative adventure by the way in which they choose to navigate the given space.”23 Drawing on theories of the archive, performance, and spatial storytelling practices, Kagen argues that players themselves add liveness (ephemerality) to the otherwise dead (fixed) collection that the game presents, animating the narrative possibilities embedded within space itself.
Archival adventuring often exists side by side with other primary game mechanics, providing optional narrative discoveries for a player who explores beyond the game’s main goals. Such is the case with the Portal game series, which embeds the mystery of an abandoned science facility in the details of the game’s primary puzzle-solving environments. The primary ludic action of the game involves the protagonist traversing mazes created by a sadistic artificial intelligence named GLaDOS to test out the portal gun, which can connect two noncontinuous points in space. Spread throughout the laboratory, often in hidden areas, are artifacts that slowly reveal narrative details about the origins of the evil computer and the corporation that created her.
Portal 2, released in 2011, more seamlessly aligns the archival adventure of Portal with its puzzle-focused gameplay. The player traverses the preserved fossil of the Aperture Science laboratories, an underground spatialized timeline that advances with the player’s exploration of its abandoned corridors. The grand entrance hall of the old facility, with a recorded message greeting the “astronauts, Olympians, and war heroes” volunteering for experimentation, leads to a tangle of chambers curiously labeled by year. The space–time of Aperture Science embodies what we might call a chronotope of the institution, with time broken up into static and coherently preserved spaces that easily narrativize the history of the corporation, as if they continuously built outward rather than remodeling the same space over time. Traversing three decades of history from the early 1950s, the gamer can hear jingoistic prerecorded messages to scientists and test subjects in the facility from the voice of dead Aperture Science founder Cave Johnson. Aperture’s corporate history, represented not only by Johnson’s voice but also by the evolving company logos, decaying office paraphernalia, and grim portraiture found in the game’s environment, is a playful incarnation of all things repugnant about late-stage capitalism: “Bean counter said I couldn’t fire a man just for being in a wheelchair. Did it anyway—ramps are expensive!” The recordings also introduce the voice of Caroline, Johnson’s personal assistant and human who would later become GLaDOS, whose interest in science is continually belittled by her boss. Johnson’s default use of masculine pronouns and honorifics is an obvious critique of mid-twentieth-century chauvinism. He is the straight, white, misogynistic alpha man par excellence, both the ideal figurehead for a corporation like Aperture as well as the ideal villain for a generation extensively trained to accept the self-evident value of diversity politics. He is also, crucially, a relic dragged up from the past.
Portal’s avatar Chell is an early example of a playable protagonist whose racial appearance inspired speculation and adoration on the part of the game’s fans from the beginning. Jennifer deWinter and Carly Kocurek call her “a flashpoint in player demand for more diverse representation in avatars and video game protagonists,” documenting how women of color gamers embraced her because of the multiracial identity of Alésia Glidewell, the actress on which she was based.24 As I have argued elsewhere, Chell is “an ambiguous brown body who might potentially belong to a number of communities …, an object of desire for those gamers who have been denied representation in the media, [and] a panacea that reaches out across a wide spectrum of race.”25
Chell’s triumph over the cruel and controlling GLaDOS, who is actually the psychic remains of a white woman forced into a computer, positions her as the vanguard of a new era. She is the paragon of exceptional multiraciality, tailor made to diversify the game’s intended audience in part because her visual appearance alone does not disturb the structures of power that created her. Indeed, she is a normatively attractive brown woman who runs around the facility in an orange prison jumpsuit—not unusual for representations of Black and brown women. From the vantage of racial power, it is crucial that Chell as a character has no memories and no voice of her own, and that all information the player learns about her comes from exploring the archive of Aperture Science itself. In this game, memory tourism manifests in the player’s use of Chell’s body to explore the history of the corporation that imprisoned her.
To read the abandoned hallways of Aperture Science as both archive and memory brings together the permanent and ephemeral at the nexus of institutional power. Power is not something that we can touch, but Sara Ahmed argues that power is a material manifestation of forces that prevent change and movement: “To think about materiality through institutional brick walls is to offer a different way of thinking the connections between bodies and worlds. Materiality is about what is real; it is something real that blocks movement, which stops a progression.”26 Ephemeral power controls the movement and desires of individuals much like brick walls do. The reverse is true as well: the solidity of brick walls fixes the power of the institution in a particular place. We can also see such material manifestations of power in the contemporary struggles to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces in the United States. Murray’s formulation of the ideology of landscape makes a similar claim to the power of “mere” spatial representation in games.27 Aperture Science as a spatial configuration constitutes both a historical record of power as well as the primary obstacle that gamers must overcome in their traversal. This arrangement metaphorically aligns Portal 2’s gameplay with a struggle against white supremacist, cis heteropatriarchy, embodied here in the Aperture Science laboratories and its archived founder.
The spatialized history of Aperture Science captures some of the tensions between permanent and ephemeral memory operations, the archive and play, or database and narrative, that emerge in video game play. Chun reminds us that “memory is not a static but rather an active process,” and that computer “memory” in particular “[brings] together the permanent and the ephemeral” in ways that our popular understanding of memory neglects, but formulations like Kagen’s archival adventure, in which the ephemeral animates the permanent, compellingly illustrate.28 Chun warns that the conflation of permanent with ephemeral “arrests memory and its degenerative possibilities in order to support dreams of superhuman digital programmability.”29 In other words, we have lost sight of the utility of forgetfulness because computers are designed to remember things forever, what Chun calls the enduring ephemeral. Though the desire to erase unpleasant memories far precedes computer metaphors, it takes on new urgency in an era of machines designed to take over the task of remembering from us.
Against the backdrop of the walls of Aperture Science, Chell’s brown body enacts the disruptive mutltiracial performance that Nyong’o seeks in everyday political life, “produc[ing] a jolting or jarring reminder of the political unconscious and disrupt[ing] the seamless progression of the national pageantry” when it contradicts collective memory.30 This jarring begins with her unnaturally light eyes, which call attention to her multiraciality rather than allowing it to fade into the background.31 Chell was designed with no history and without the power of speech, but her anachronistic presence in the sealed-off laboratory spaces of Aperture Science confronts us with the history that the fiction of Portal fails to address. This omission, in fact, enables the humor of the series to function without unnecessary complication: institutional science was not experimenting on war heroes and Olympians at mid-century. While outrage about human testing is often directed at universally reviled targets like Nazi Germany, the United States has its own history of scientific experimentation on unaware and uncompensated poor and disenfranchised communities, often communities of color. One of the more notorious incidents of scientific testing on US citizens is the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, which went on for forty years, from 1932 to 1972—overlapping the prime days of Aperture Science. Portal 2 flirts with this racialized history by suggesting that, over time, Aperture transitioned from brave volunteer subjects to the reluctant poor and its own exploited employees but whitewashes it to use as a raceless backdrop for the morbid comedy of a blockbuster series. The humor of the Portal universe offers an entertaining cautionary tale about science, corruption, and power, but one that can only exist in the postfeminist, postracial milieu of the early twenty-first-century imaginary.
Chell is an avatar devoid of memories, which allows the player to seamlessly slip into her body and tour the abandoned science facility firsthand. Her journey is dominated by the ludic conflict with GLaDOS/Caroline and the ghost of Cave Johnson, foregrounding gender at the expense of race in the game’s most prominent tensions. These narrative and play structures allow players to feel good about righting the wrongs of the past without attending to the violence and erasure they commit in the present. Indeed, to a certain degree the present must remain invisible and whitened in order for the Portal games to remain coherent. This approach to justice perpetually looks backward: too late to prevent the disaster but always in time to apologize and clean up after it.
Fixing the Past: Remember Me ’s Collective Trauma
Both Assassin’s Creed and Portal 2 turn memory into playable matter, and they offer some flexibility in the discovery and traversal of the past, even though they both present ways for players to experience the triumph of putting bigotry in its place by inhabiting the bodies of multiracial avatars. They do not, however, enable players to radically alter memory itself, a type of fixing that introduces new considerations. Released in 2013, Remember Me takes place in 2084 in the dystopia of Neo-Paris, dominated by a technology called Sensen that provides access to a user’s brain and allows their memories to be exported, shared, and even edited or erased entirely. After a cheerful advertisement celebrating the community-building features of Sensen, the game’s action opens with the protagonist character, a multiracial woman named Nilin, screaming in agony on the floor as a machine siphons memories out of her head. This introduction to the promise and power of Sensen foreshadows its central role in the class division of Neo-Parisian society: throughout the player’s adventure to reconstruct Nilin’s memories, they fight not only the representatives of the Memorize megacorporation responsible for Sensen but also the violent, mutated humans known as Leapers that have been created by the effects of the company’s technology.
Nilin has brown skin, straight dark hair, and striking blue eyes that stand out in promotional images, such as the banner image on the game’s Steam page, which renders her in gray scale with the exception of her brilliant blue irises. Like Chell and Aveline de Grandpré, marginalized gamers received her enthusiastically, though the game itself ultimately scored mixed reviews. Representatives from Dontnod Entertainment mentioned in multiple interviews that they had to fight to keep a woman (of color) protagonist in the game and not sexualize her, suggesting that Nilin’s identity and appearance, though an initial barrier to publishing, were a key component of the game’s marketing strategy.32
As the player advances in Nilin’s mission to take down Memorize, they learn that she is in fact the daughter of Memorize’s Black CEO, Scylla Cartier-Wells, and white Sensen inventor, Charles Cartier-Wells. This revelation occurs about halfway through the game and abruptly grounds Nilin’s mysterious identity not only in relation to her enemies but in terms of multiraciality as well—which Murray characterizes as “a cypher for global identity.”33 The game’s information index describes Scylla as multiracial herself: she is Ethiopian and Indian, though The Art of Remember Me shows concept art of the character using Black American actor Angela Bassett as a model.34 In pointing out this visual inconsistency, I risk reifying the kind of classification methods that underlie racial-science techniques like physiognomy, though I believe it is important to point out that multiraciality here operates simply as a fantasy that sustains the Black/white binary rather than an endorsement or confirmation of diversity in a futuristic world. Scylla is legibly Black and indeed modeled after a famous Black woman no matter her cultural inheritance. Charles, Nilin’s father, is a white Frenchman who has no such racial or cultural description in his index entry. Nilin, by virtue of her access to whiteness, is more racially ambiguous. Dontnod’s casting decisions seemingly confirm this logic: Orlessa Atlass, the voice of Scylla, is Black, while Kezia Burrows, who plays Nilin, is white.35
Instead of killing her parents, Nilin, the exceptional multiracial child, uses her talents in memory manipulation to address their trauma and, in so doing, reverse the family conflict that is behind Memorize’s corruption of society. Repressing traumatic memories is a central theme in the game: Charles first tested Sensen technology on Nilin as a child so that she would forget the car crash that took her mother’s leg and tore their family apart. On a surface level, Remember Me offers a cautionary tale about the dangers of repressing traumatic memories. However, set against the racial identities of the Cartier-Wells family and the location of the game’s narrative in future Paris, once a bastion of colonial power, the memory manipulations of the game also seem to suggest postracial movements toward forgetting that encourage us to get over the racialized traumas of the past in order to move forward.
This manifests mostly in the figure of Scylla Cartier-Wells, the Black mother and CEO of Memorize who wishes to capitalize on the tragic byproduct of the Leapers by enslaving them as a source of free labor. Remember Me is unforgiving in its misogynoiristic depiction of Scylla as ruthless, uncaring, and driven mad by her own grief. Nilin’s omnipotent guide, Edge, refers to Scylla as a “bitch” multiple times (a habit Nilin eventually picks up herself), and claims that everything bad in their society is a result of Scylla’s personality change after the car accident: she is a Black woman with a bad attitude and too much power.36 Manipulating Scylla’s memory of the accident is a key goal in the game, a scene that not only reveals to Nilin (and the player) that she is Scylla’s daughter but also that Scylla was an impatient mother and a workaholic even before her personality shifted. In a mechanic that Murray describes as an act of “time-space compression,” the player, acting through Nilin, tours the childhood memory she shares with Scylla and manipulates elements of the scene until it is not Nilin fussing in the backseat that causes the accident, but Scylla’s own clumsyness with a cup of coffee.37
Edge’s command to Nilin is to remix Scylla’s memory and “make her responsible for the accident. Appease her bitterness. She must stop hating the world for what happened to her.” Read more broadly, this order suggests women of color, and Black women in particular, are responsible for their own suffering in part because of an unwillingness to get over historical atrocities like enslavement and colonization in order to get along with the white descendants of their violators in the present day. Edge’s later claim, “A society whose only goal is to forget its mistakes will not survive,” introduces a jarring inconsistency that illuminates the racial dynamics of the game to this point. Charles, the white patriarch, distances himself from Scylla after the accident. Scylla, the bad Black mother, sinks into her own rage and bitterness. Nilin, the resilient product of these two, is the only one able to successfully synthesize the past and present to make way for the future. When Nilin reflects on tampering with her mother’s memories, she calls it an act of “remix[ing] her world view.”
Scylla acquiesces to this perspective. Once Nilin rewrites her trauma, mother and daughter tearfully reunite and move toward reconciliation with the Cartier-Wells patriarch. As she prepares for the task, Nilin recites a multiracial manifesto: “It’s up to me to repair the damage, to right the wrongs committed by my family.” In a chapter of the game entitled “Sins of Our Fathers,” Nilin finds him as an aging man locked away for years within a bubble of happy memories of his life before the family’s shared trauma. He is unaware, we might even say innocent, of the chaos his technology has wrought on society. Described earlier in the game as an inventor with perpetual utopian aspirations, he remains suspended in the dreams of his own spotless mind.
The memory remix for Charles begins at the Sensen primal scene: after successfully testing the technology on his daughter, he proclaims that forgetting the past is the “solution to misery.” Next is the scene of the car crash, in which Charles looms like a gargantuan puppeteer, his hand extended over Scylla and Nilin as he attempts to rewrite his family’s memory of the accident. The player, through Nilin, makes Charles believe he killed his daughter in the initial experiment, which shocks him out of his reverie. Significantly, Charles, unlike Scylla, is able to see through Nilin’s remix and then negotiate with her on equal terms. In the climactic scene, the powerful Black mother and genius white father take responsibility for the “civil war” they started and reunite to bring peace back to the world.
Scylla, Charles, and Nilin represent the trifecta that the other multiracial protagonists explored in this argument could not address: Black and white brought together by the multiracial child whose journey to recover her memories is key to saving the world. Crucially, the Cartier-Wellses are fixed only when Scylla can forget and Charles can remember the past, gesturing toward the differential expectations of reconciliation in racial trauma. That the fate of the world rests on the resolution of this family drama suggests that the stakes of memory in Remember Me extend much further than the Cartier-Wellses, perhaps to the legacies of colonial violence not only of France but of whiteness in general. The player, through Nilin, plays a key role in its dissolution.
Remixing the Present
At the beginning of this article, I set out to demonstrate through three different games how memory and multiraciality come together to permit white players to fix the past—in multiple senses of the word. Assassin’s Creed allows gamers to strike back at enslavement and colonization through the brown ancestors of its white protagonists and Black historical figures commoditized via DNA. In Portal 2, Chell’s ambiguous brown body and ultralight eyes offer a haunting reminder of the racial violence that the game otherwise refuses to discuss in its critique of science and industry while she restores order to the broken facility. Nilin reconstructs her own memories, fixes her parents’ understanding of the past, and prevents an apocalypse brought on by disordered remembrance at a massive scale. These multiracial avatars serve as conduits, as Nyong’o describes, to heal racial divides, ascending to the position of the multiracial who approximates whiteness in their exceptionality, as predicted by Joseph. The last piece of this argument is to understand how such repair fixes the conversation, closing it off from more substantive reconciliation.
In Assassin’s Creed, the creators of the series curiously apologize for allowing the player to right the wrongs of history. Each game opens with a disclaimer: “Inspired by historical events and characters. This work of fiction was designed, developed, and produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs.” On the surface, this is a good liberal gesture in the spirit of multiculturalism. It frames inclusion as a preventative measure against racism because “everyone” had a say in the creation of these stories—perhaps, as Adrienne Shaw suggests, as a way to demonstrate an effort to represent historical communities of color in an authentic way by consulting their descendants.38 However, when we recognize that the most consistently unflattering representations in the series are of colonizers and Catholics, the statement can also function as a conciliatory gesture for rewriting history in ways that are unflattering to the powers that be. The structure of the disclaimer, which affirms the existence of in-group members that might deflect accusations of bias, simultaneously suggests an allegiance to the very whiteness it is anticipating to offend. When whiteness is both the producer as well as the object of the critique, regardless of whether that critique is meaningful, it sets its own terms for a reconciliation that will never exceed these prescribed boundaries.
Portal 2 conjures up the ghosts of twentieth-century sexism in the form of white patriarch Cave Johnson and his subservient matriarch Caroline, then exorcises them when GLaDOS deletes her former personality from memory. Chell, the exceptional multiracial who enlists a broad spectrum of gamers in the fight for representation in the industry and even restored GLaDOS to her former power, moves silently through the horrific remains of gendered violence in the facility, amending it where necessary, while the gamer ignores the racial implications of her present-day narrative. She becomes Gayatri Spivak’s voiceless subaltern, a woman of color who is unrecognizable as a subject and can only communicate with the traces of her body.39 Chell moves through the troubled fossilized history of the Enrichment Center, and the doors seal behind her. As thanks for her help in restoring her power, GLaDOS ejects Chell from the facility, cutting off her access to the archive of atrocity and symbolically closing it away.
It is memory itself that disrupts the reconciliation fantasy in Remember Me, in the form of an artificial life created from the bad memories flushed away by Sensen technology. This entity reveals himself as the mysterious intelligence behind Nilin’s benefactor Edge, and after reuniting her family he seeks an end to his suffering at her hands—the very person whose memories first gave him life. This monstrous digital amalgamation of society’s unwanted memories is perhaps the logical terminus of identity unbounded by the organizing logics of race. Edge, or H3O in his final revealed form, disrupts the figure of the multiracial individual as the genetic (and memorial) inheritance of one body from two, twisting it instead into an assemblage of memory, history, and feelings pulled from millions of individuals. His brief life calls into question the very structure of race as the attempt at an orderly sorting of our bodies and traumas, and his death swiftly contains the chaos once again. What remains is the future promised by the figure of Nilin, the multiracial hero who remains safely under the player’s control.
Ultimately, multiraciality in memory tourism lays bare certain assumptions that we make about identity and power in contemporary society. While the racial identities of these characters may begin as marketing gimmicks to attract new consumers and fulfill a promise (or create the illusion) of diversity, they inevitably force questions about racial difference and racial trauma, sometimes by virtue of their incoherence. It bears remarking that the three figures who loom largest in this essay are also all women, and I am reminded here of Doucet-Battle’s account of matriarchy as a concept that shifts throughout history and re-emerges in the context of genetic research specifically to “valorize sacrificial exchange” produced and exacerbated by the material inequities of race.40 To celebrate Aveline, Chell, and Nilin simply as foremothers of a new era of multiracial representation in gaming is to gloss over the sacrificial position they are thrust into as icons of racial difference who must nevertheless bend to the demands of whiteness in order to succeed in the task of racial reconciliation.
As I wind this argument down, I want to affirm the importance of digging into the troubled politics of race, memory, and technology rather than turning away from them. It is true that any serious consideration of multiracial identity on its face reinforces the quantitative logics of racial science, but I follow Ahmed’s recommendation that we must learn “to understand how what is ungrounded can become a social ground.”41 Multiraciality, understood as the combining of distinct genetic heritages, cultural backgrounds, and consumer categories, is becoming big business in the games industry—as it has been in Hollywood for decades. And as we’ve seen from these examples, multiracial characters can help illuminate how race operates (as identity, power, and computational structure) in the context of the distributed subjectivity of posthuman avatar relationships. Indeed, as some critics write about the queer and transgender politics of cross-gender avatar identification in characters like Lara Croft and Bayonetta, we might begin to think of the multiracial politics of cross-racial avatar identification as well—but always with an eye for how anti-Blackness structures so much of what we understand about racial identity, as we saw in Assassin’s Creed, Portal, and Remember Me alike.
In the epilogue to Programmed Visions, Chun writes, “Like software, race was, and still is, a privileged way of understanding the relationship between the visible and invisible: it links visual cues to unseen forces.”42 The metaphor of software as memory conceals the very deep belief that our genetic programming manifests as much in our outward (racialized) appearance as it does in our behaviors or susceptibility to disease. With that metaphor comes the promise of playing with our programming, of taking control of the unseen forces and writing our own destiny. Unfortunately, such a promise will always be restricted by the politics of race as they exist in the present.
Postscript: Data Made Flesh
Not long after I finished an early version of this article, I played the melancholy archival adventure What Remains of Edith Finch, one of Kagen’s exemplars when defining the genre. The game asks the player to explore a house filled with the abandoned relics of the protagonist’s family and play through the stylized memories of their unusual moments of death. I was surprised to discover that the eponymous Finch had a father from India named Sanjay Kumar. Edith’s multiracial identity, presumably passed on to the game’s avatar, her son Christopher, was unremarked upon in the Finches’ stories. Indeed, like the other spouses who did not come from the Finch lineage, Kumar does not have any memories in the family house. He merely exists in objects and photographs owned by the white side of the family, an infusion of diversity into the visual landscape of the game and the genetic material of the Finch family without a substantive reckoning with what such cultural encounters might have meant for any of them. The intricacies of memory, ephemeral and permanent, and racial violence/silence in and around the archive, are explored through (and by) the multiracial body once again.
There are other such examples of memory tourism facilitated by multiracial bodies in video games. Lincoln Clay is the multiracial protagonist of Mafia III who navigates the racial hierarchies of New Orleans in 1968 and triangulates Italian and Black crime organizations. Delsin Rowe is the multiracial Indigenous protagonist of inFAMOUS Second Son, who liberates Seattle from authoritarian police control while being persecuted as a member of a new underclass of humans with superpowers rather than as an Indigenous youth. Alyx Vance is the protagonist of Half Life: Alyx, who fights against alien invaders through an episode from the franchise’s past. They would each bring new dimensions to this conversation. Indeed, I have noted throughout this article that the very structure of video games with avatars, predicated as many of them are on technologically extending human subjectivity into fantastic worlds and the identities of the other, partially realizes the distributed posthuman (and postracial) subject as imagined by the Edge/H3O construct in Remember Me. In this case, the prosthetic memories to which we have access are fictional, but they are no less impactful in the ways they require us to understand the relationship between the body, the mind, our technologies, and each other.
Thanks to Alexandrina Agloro, Darshana Jayemanne, Cameron Kunzelman, Josef Nguyen, Christopher Patterson, Bo Ruberg, and Adrienne Shaw for commenting on earlier versions of this draft, and to Soraya Murray for encouraging me to submit it to ROMChip. I am also grateful for the labor of four anonymous readers, two from Science Fiction Film and Television and two from ROMChip for helping me to refine and strengthen the argument. Finally, thanks to the ROMChip editorial team, especially Soraya Murray and Laine Nooney, for an efficient and helpful editorial process. Any remaining faults or oversights are my own.
1. ^ Alexander Pope, “Eloisa to Abelard,” lines 203–4.
2. ^ Wendy Chun, Programmed Visions: Software as Memory (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).
3. ^ Ralina L. Joseph, Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Mulitracial (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).
4. ^ Tavia Nyong’o, The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), 13.
5. ^ LeiLani Nishime, Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 7.
6. ^ See Adrienne Shaw, Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014); and Amanda Phillips, Gamer Trouble: Feminist Contributions in Digital Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2020), for further discussion of the origins and fallacies of the “identify with” phenomenon. See Kishonna Gray, Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming (Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press, 2020), for detailed accounts of how players negotiate racialized identities in video games. See Mary Beltrán and Camilla Fojas, eds., Mixed Race Hollywood (New York: New York University Press, 2008), for an account of the rise of multiracial representation in popular film.
7. ^ Lisa Nakamura, Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet (New York: Routledge, 2002).
8. ^ David Leonard, “High Tech Blackface—Race, Sports Video Games, and Becoming the Other,” Intelligent Agent 4, no. 4 (2004), http://www.intelligentagent.com/archive/Vol4_No4_gaming_leonard.htm; and Dean Chan, “Playing with Race: The Ethics of Racialized Representations in E-Games,” International Review of Information Ethics 4 (2005): 24–30.
9. ^ TreaAndrea Russworm, “Dystopian Blackness and the Limits of Racial Empathy in The Walking Dead and The Last of Us,” in Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games, ed. Jennifer Malkowski and TreaAndrea M. Russworm (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017), 109–28; and Christopher Patterson, Open World Empire: Race, Erotics, and the Global Rise of Video Games (New York: New York University Press, 2020).
10. ^ Soraya Murray, On Video Games: The Visual Politics of Race, Gender, and Space (London: I. B. Tauris, 2018).
11. ^ The concept of blood memory was developed by Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday in order to account for the various ways that Indigenous individuals connect to their collective heritage in the face of generational trauma and government regulation of Indigenous identity. For more on how Momaday developed the concept through his fiction, see Chadwick Allen, “Blood (and) Memory,” American Literature 71, no. 1 (1999): 93–116, for an account of how Momaday developed the concept of blood memory through his fiction.
12. ^ Later entries in the series extend its playable timeline back to the Peloponnesian Wars, and there are flashbacks that suggest the story has its origins in the mythical Garden of Eden, but the series’ first release, original temporal origins, and title point to the medieval Crusades.
13. ^ Allen, “Blood (and) Memory.”
14. ^ Natalie Harkin, “The Poetics of (Re)Mapping Archives: Memory in the Blood,” Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 14, no. 3 (2016), https://openjournals.library.sydney.edu.au/index.php/JASAL/article/download/9909/9798.
15. ^ Nyong’o, The Amalgamation Waltz, 178.
16. ^ Aveline and Adéwalé do have documented descendants in the series, though information about them exists in optional content included in later games of the series.
17. ^ Deborah Pembleton and Barbara J. May, “Cells for Sale? Business Ethics, Medical Ethics, and Henrietta Lacks,” Intercultural Directions Council Lectures 14 (lecture, St John’s University, Collegeville, MN, January 20, 2017), https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/idc_lectures/14.
18. ^ James Doucet-Battle, “Bioethical Matriarchy: Race, Gender, and the Gift in Genomic Research,” Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience 2, no. 2 (2016): 1–24, https://doi.org/10.28968/cftt.v2i2.28802.
19. ^ Doucet-Battle, “Bioethical Matriarchy,” 11–12.
20. ^ Joseph, Transcending Blackness. See also Murray, On Video Games, for more on Aveline’s creole identity and how it impacts gender and gameplay in Liberation.
21. ^ Murray, On Video Games, 70.
22. ^ Chun, Programmed Visions, 10.
23. ^ Melissa Kagan, “Archival Adventuring,” Convergence 26, no. 4 (2020): 1007–20, https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856519847875.
24. ^ Carly Kocurek and Jennifer DeWinter, “Chell Game: Representation, Identification, and Racial Ambiguity in Portal and Portal 2,” in The Cake Is a Lie: Polyperspektivische Betrachtungen Des Computerspiels Am Beispiel von Portal, ed. Thomas Hensel, Britta Neitzel, and Rolf Nohr (Münster: LIT, 2015), 32.
25. ^ Phillips, Gamer Trouble, 117.
26. ^ Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 142.
27. ^ Murray, On Video Games.
28. ^ Chun, Programmed Visions, 167.
29. ^ Wendy Chun, “The Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future Is a Memory,” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 1 (2008): 148.
30. ^ Nyong’o, The Amalgamation Waltz, 17.
31. ^ In Gamer Trouble, I compared this to the light eyes of the infant in Diego Rivera’s The Conquest, or The Arrival of Cortés, which call attention to multiraciality as colonial violence.
32. ^ See Murray, On Video Games, chap. 4, for more on the reception history of Remember Me.
33. ^ Murray, 202. While I don’t engage further with Murray’s reading of the urban landscape of Remember Me, this article is obviously deeply indebted to her approach to memory and space throughout, and these readings might be understood as two pieces of a greater whole: I am focused here on Nilin’s identity where Murray reads her traversal of the space around her.
34. ^ Aleksi Briclot, Michel Koch, and Jean-Max Moris, The Art of Remember Me (Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2013), 120.
35. ^ For more on racial identity in video game voice casting, see Philip Miletic, “Avatar ‘n’ Andy: The Colour Blind Ideology in Video Game Voice Acting,” Loading: The Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association 13, no. 21 (2020): 34–54. For more on racial performance in games more generally, see Alison Reed and Amanda Phillips, “Additive Race: Colorblind Discourses of Realism in Performance Capture Technologies,” Digital Creativity 24, no. 2 (2013): 130–44.
36. ^ For a history of the development of the term misogynoir, which captures the unique forms of racism and misogyny that Black women endure, see Moya Bailey and Trudy, “On Misogynoir: Citation, Erasure, and Plagiarism,” Feminist Media Studies 18, no. 4 (2018): 762–68.
37. ^ Murray, On Video Games, 214.
38. ^ Adrienne Shaw, “The Tyranny of Realism: Historical Accuracy and Politics of Representation in Assassin’s Creed III,” Loading: The Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association 9, no. 14 (2015): 11.
39. ^ Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (London: Macmillan, 1988), 271–313.
40. ^ Doucet-Battle, “Bioethical Matriarchy,” 20.
41. ^ Sara Ahmed, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), 182.
42. ^ Chun, Programmed Visions, 179.