Among even veteran gamers and avid film-goers, some of the cross-cultural concepts of Western cultural imperialism have become grueling to tolerate. Its world-wide dominance in imperial entertainment alone has merely captured the global marketplace for its cultural commodities and established hegemony by molding popular consciousness. This form of cultural normativity is even more prevalent now, especially when it comes to depicting the Middle East in modern warfare games.

According to the 2013 gaming poll, 21.2 percent of the bestselling video games were shooters with 22.3 percent being action games. With gaming demographics stating the most popular games are shooters; games like America’s Army, Battlefield 4, Tom Clancy’s: Splinter Cell, Call of Duty: World of Warfare and Medal of Honor all take place in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and are models of U.S. commercial propaganda.

It is a truism that games are reconstructing the ways we imagine war with: access to weapons, violence, poverty and non-fictional conflicts being used to raise awareness of certain cultural ideologies. How many of those games use Middle Eastern stereotypes is undetermined but it is palpable that their games are cultural interventions used to place emphasis on American patriotism and heroism, according to Dr. Muniba Saleem, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan–Dearborn.

Dr. Saleem and Anderson cite in their January issue ‘Arabs as Terrorists: Effects of Stereotypes within Violent Contexts on Attitudes, Perceptions, and Affect’ that Western games are frequently endorsing schematized stereotypic Arab/Muslim attributes to depict Middle-East like settings. The protagonists in video games are usually romanticized American soldiers, whereas the Middle East is usually perceived as the aggressor, terrorist, outsider and as “suicide bombers with explosives strapped to their bodies.”

Their study of 224 participants showed that playing violent video games, even those featuring Russians as terrorists, increased anti-Arab attitudes. U.S-mediated commodities, such as shooter games, are creating illusions of untruth by rendering the opposing ‘other’ as the foe and American militants as the heroes. Recent studies in Social-cognitive development, GAM, the General Aggression Model, view video game play as a sequence of learning trials that trigger certain kinds of associations in the short term (priming processes) and that with frequent exposure can contribute to permanent changes in knowledge construction and schemas.

With more and more materialized merchandises originating from the Western market, repeated popular cultural entertainment is manipulating adolescents into believing that certain groups in society are in fact threats. As many as 71 percent of parents with children under the age of 18 view playing video games as an educational medium. Most of today’s youth are learning and following American political ideologies through the use of mass entertainment. Products that expose antagonistic cultural identities pose a risk to foreign cultures whereby a world-wide consensus of a particular community becomes the reality.

Validating games that are used as a tool for venting aggression and hatred towards a specific culture is a shrewd way of illustrating the socio-political dominance the West has over the Middle East. The globalization of Western culture and the ideologies it holds, make it seem that it is acceptable to wipe out a suburb of Arabs and Muslims; like many gamers do when playing first-person shooters set in the Middle East. Western games are repackaged to suite the international market. The general public of the Western and European world are therefore brainwashed into accepting Muslims and Arabs as adversaries of society.

This image is more often than not generalized by media coverage including print newspapers, digital and broadcast news in many European and Western domains. Games in a more discrete manner reflect these ongoing conflicts between the West and the East. Advertising racialized Islamophobia to adolescents through a gaming device can lead to explicit judgement of Arabs and destroy their national identity. By dictating and reshaping cult, negative cultural imperialism of other cultural groups, particularly those who adopt different beliefs, often leads to them being alienated from a specific culture that carries opposing opinions.

Although interactive games have contributed to the socio-economic system of many countries they have also at the same time become a tool for influencing people’s psyche. Games that contain serious ethnic themes and unfairness should therefore be removed. Will Western cultural bias eventually be withdrawn from games entirely? Probably not, but it is something developers and governing bodies should be aware of considering that ongoing offensive material in games can lead to extreme repercussions.



Anderson, C. A., & Saleem, M (2012) Arabs as Terrorists: Effects of Stereotypes within Violent Contexts on Attitudes, Perceptions, and Affect. Psychology of Violence 2012 American Psychological Association 2013, Vol. 3, No. 1, 84–99 Available at: Accessed: 1/03/14.

Rauschenberger, E, (2003) it’s Only a Movie – Right? Deconstructing Cultural Imperialism Examining the Mechanisms Behind U.S. Domination of the Global Cultural Trade. Available at: Accessed: 2/03/2014.

Entertainment Software Association (2013) Sales, Demographics and User Data. Essential Facts about The Computer and Video Game Industry. Available at: Accessed: 2/03/14.

Haglund, V (2011). BEHIND THE MECHANICS The Conveyance of Political Messages through Video Games.  Available at: Accessed: 4/02/2014.