Sören Schoppmeier

PhD Candidate

Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin


Since 2015 Doctoral Candidate at the Graduate School of North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
2012-2014 MA in American Studies, Universität Leipzig
2008-2011 BA in English and History, Leibniz Universität Hannover
2010 University of Nebraska—Lincoln

Research Interests:

  • Popular Culture
  • Game Studies
  • American (Cultural) History
  • 20th- and 21st-Century American Literature

Playing America(n): Negotiations of American Culture in Open-World Video Games (working title)

What happens when we play American in contemporary open-world video games? This question lies at the heart of this dissertation. The project can be understood as an effort to productively marry theories, methodologies, and research interests from the field of Game Studies with those of American Cultural Studies in order to illuminate the functioning of video games in the broader assemblage of American culture, focusing on so-called open-world games. Three preliminary working theses run through this dissertation, informing and driving its research questions:

  • Utilizing specific affordances of the open-world form, such as a high degree of player freedom, the workings of ‘living,’ ambient worlds, and a pervasive exposure to expressive processes, video games like those of the Watch Dogs, Grand Theft Auto, and Fallout series effectively involve players in defining characteristics of American life in the twenty-first century through the interaction of their procedural and fictional components during play.
  • These games are as much products of a distinctively American culture, composed of an ecology of popular media, political discourses, technological developments, and societal dynamics, as they are themselves producers of particular versions of ‘America’ that bring to the fore some of the processes underlying both American self-understandings and American predicaments.
  • When playing American in these games, the player performs a distinct, game-specific hybrid identity, which leads to a constant negotiation of the player’s identity in relation to the ‘America’ created in the game at play; this negotiation is unique for each player but always cued by the dispositions of a particular game, which are the same for every player.

Through a theorization of the open-world form followed by several case studies of particular video games, I want to shed light on what exactly it is that happens when players play American in these games.

Publications and Conference Presentations

“Control and Coordinate: Video Games as (Fictions of) Management.” Fictions of Management: An International Conference. John F. Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität Berlin. 8-10 Dec. 2016. Presentation. (upcoming)

“Places, Actors, Procedures: Transfictional World-Building in the Video Game Series Grand Theft Auto.” Expanding Universes: Exploring Transmedial and Transfictional Ways of Worldbuilding. Facta Ficta Research Centre, Kraków. 25 Sept. 2016. Presentation.

“Playing with Broadcast: Radio and Television as Ludo-Narrative Devices in the Video Game Series Grand Theft Auto.” Return of the Living-Dead Media: Media Cultures of Persistence, Resistance and Residue. 14th NECS Graduate Workshop. Brandenburg Center for Media Studies, Potsdam. 27 July 2016. Presentation.

“Grand Theft Satire? Framing Ludic Violence and the Problem of Ethical Gameplay in Grand Theft Auto V.” Framing Violence: A Multidisciplinary Symposium on Theorizing Frames. John F. Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität Berlin. 1 July 2016. Presentation.

“Digital Empires, Ludic Neoliberalism, and the ‘Flâneur Electronique’: Urban Visions in Open-World Video Games.” Cityscapes: Media Textualities and Urban Visions. York St. John University. 23 April 2016. Presentation.

“‘Hottentot Barbie’ as a Multicultural Star: The Commodification of Race in Nicki Minaj’s Music Videos.” aspeers: emerging voices in american studies 8 (2015): 49-70. Print.

“The American Myth of the Wilderness in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and Desolation Angels.” New Academia 3.2 (2014): n. pag. Interactions Forum. Web.

With Florian Bast et al., eds. aspeers: emerging voices in american studies 7 (2014). Print.

With Florian Bast et al. “Introduction: American Anxieties.” aspeers: emerging voices in american studies 7 (2014): vii-xvi. Print.

“The Return of the Repressed: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.” Connect the Dots: Structures—Networks—Systems. Student Conference Bayreuth 2014. Universität Bayreuth. 12 January 2014. Presentation.

“The Good, the Bad, and the Alien: Orientalism in Star Wars.” American Wars: Material and Ideological Battlegrounds. 12th Annual Student & Graduate Conference. Humboldt-Universität Berlin, 8 November 2013. Presentation.

With Florian Bast et al., eds. aspeers: emerging voices in american studies 6 (2013). Print.

With Florian Bast et al. “Memories in American Studies.” aspeers: emerging voices in american studies 6 (2013): vii-xxi. Print.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft