A critical discourse analysis of violence in the Mass Effect universe

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University of New Brunswick


This thesis offers a critical discourse analysis of violence in the video game Mass Effect. After the Sandy Hook School shooting in December, 2012, Mass Effect was believed to motivate the shooter. Following this accusation, conversations arose defending and blaming the video game for the shooting. Rather than taking a side, I use Fairclough’s textually-oriented critical discourse analysis to explore the constructions of physical and discursive violence, especially discourses of gender, sexuality and race, in Mass Effect. Physical violence is the more overt presentation, making it easy to link the game to the shooting; discursive violence, however, is less obvious. I also explore how players engage with, and potentially resist, physical and discursive violence through online conversations and opportunities to change the game. Finally, I offer implications for video game developers, parents, teachers, players, and the public.