The Midnight Sun of the Cold War: Terror and World War Three in Theatre Europe

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    Theatre Europe was an award-winning strategy videogame released for 8-bit computers such as the Commodore 64 in 1985 and re-titled as Conflict Europe when released for 16-bit machines such as the Commodore Amiga four years later. Its presents a figurative World War III scenario unfolding in continental Europe, via the popular 1980s medium of the ?big board? graphic common to cold war thriller films such as WarGames (1983) subsequently updated for the contemporary era in Introversion Software?s ?genocide ?em up? DEFCON (2006). The title of the game, ?Theatre Europe?, is used throughout this essay in its broadest sense, drawing on notions of play, acting, mimicry and gamesmanship common to the literature, cold wars and hot peaces of the second half of the 20th century, a contingent part of what Baudrillard termed, in the very first issue of the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies the third world war (Baudrillard, 2004) A reading of Theatre Europe enables an exploration of cold war strategy and the social theory that articulates it, revealing a latent genealogy, which following Gerry Coulter?s lead in ?keeping theory as a challenge to the real? (Coulter, 2004), allows investigation of how these totemic weapons which kept a balance of terror in the 20th century, are highly influential, politically, culturally- and theoretically - to the societies of the 21st century. Whilst always being acutely aware, as Coulter advocated, of the lines of intersection between Baudrillard and his contemporaries (Coulter, 2014), this essay draws broadly on work that overlaps with Baudrillard?s writing around war and the execution of power, including Virlio and Der Derian?s concept of the pure war, McLuhan?s commentary on games and media and Coulter?s radical analysis of the use of power in the bipolar world of the second half of the 20th century. Through these writers, it is seen that Theatre Europe is, in spite of, or perhaps because of, popular press reactions to its depiction of World War III, a deeply political game which reveals much about the deployment and execution of power during the 1980s, which, when extrapolated to contemporary societies, reveals much about the current use of terror as a mechanism within everyday life.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Baudrillard Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 1 Jan 2018


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