Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of the Arts, English and Media


Arab representation in media has been a major focus of many works of renowned scholars, such as Edward Said (1978), Shaheen (2000), Karim (2005) and others. Journalism, film, television, and ancient literature have all been studied in these works. A recent addition to the study of Arab representation is the medium of video games. This was first examined by Reichmuth and Werning (2006) and Machin and Suleiman (2006) and extended by many works that are discussed in this thesis. The vast majority of the literature on Arab representation in video games focuses on Western video games and the reaction of Arab developers to these representations. Lack of specificity is another characteristic of this field. Both characteristics manifest in repeated comparative studies, where scholars select one local culture as an archetype, then embark on a comparative study of the global gaming community. In so doing, there is an unfair generalisation of Arab identity across broad and diverse regions, in terms of ethnic, ideological, national, historical, and even linguistic components. The present investigation critiques the shortcomings of this previous literature, while testing some alternative methods and approaches needed to re-examine the lack of access, language barriers and the aforementioned generalisations that have limited this field until now. Rather than assuming a single archetype for Saudi culture, this thesis departs from previous scholarship by examining the various aspects of the transformation process leading to what could be called an emergent “Saudiness”.

Specifically, this study examines the construction and depiction of Saudi-Arab identity through the narratives and audiovisual content of video games, paying close attention to recent developments in Saudi cultural and media policy and the mandates set forth by the Vision 2030 development plan (SCEDA, 2016). Using theories on participatory culture (Jenkins, 2009) and spreadable media (Jenkins, Ford, and Green, 2013) as well as a content analysis of previously understudied material shared by a cohort of Saudi gamers, this research investigates the particular markers and strategies used to distinguish the spectrum of cultural aspects and elements with which Saudi gamers identify. To achieve this, the analysis focuses on three distinct archetypes of Saudi Arabs in video games: (a) the Saudis in Western video games, as suggested by previous works; (b) the Saudi citizen archetype, as recommended by state policy; and (c) the Saudi culture, as represented by Saudi gamers and Saudi game producers -- who in many cases reject the idea of a single archetype. In sum, this research sheds new light on the interactions between centralised and decentralised media in Saudi Arabia, as well as the Saudi gamers' sense of agency, demonstrating how Saudis perceive Saudi representations in video games as part of a complex spectrum of interactions within a larger global gaming community.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.