"Kill the Overseer!", a book about slave resistance in video games

In her new book Kill the Overseer! The Gamification of Slave Resistance, Sarah Juliet Lauro looks at slavery and rebellion as motivational elements in video games. Does it lead to empathy or desensitization? Is it empowering? What happens in our brains, minds, and hearts when we play video games that dehumanize people, while also providing the possibility for redemption and justice?

An assistant professor at the University of Tampa, Lauro "questions whether the reduction of a historical enslaved person to a digital commodity in games such as Mission US, Assassin's Creed, and Freedom Cry ought to trouble us as a further commodification of slavery's victims, or whether these interactive experiences offer an empowering commemoration of the history of slave resistance."

Kill the Overseer! profiles and problematizes digital games that depict Atlantic slavery and "gamify" slave resistance. In video games emphasizing plantation labor, the player may choose to commit small acts of resistance like tool-breaking or working slowly. Others dramatically stage the slave's choice to flee enslavement and journey northward, and some depict outright violent revolt against the master and his apparatus."

In this review, Isabel Williams explains, "Lauro urges readers to join her in staring at what she calls the "void," as she works through the absence of celebratory monuments to slave resistance and revolts. This silence depends on a specific understanding of the slave and of what the figure of the slave allowed for."

Check out two articles on Assassin's Creed as a digital pedagogical tool here and here.

Near-contemporary prints depicting the Haitian Revolution (public domain)