Mass Effect and Citizen Kane On the Birth of a Medium and How Cultural Studies May Consolidate it


Abstract: This paper draws a parallel between the contemporary cultural significance of video games (generically named so) and the birth of film as medium of artistic expression. It works with a specific question formulated by Ian Bogost, and debated by film and video game critics alike: can we identify a definitive, and unanimously considered so, medium defining masterpiece? Can we find a Citizen Kane of video games? The paper tries to clarify and nuance this question by focusing on the cultural situation surrounding Citizen Kane and a popular video game trilogy named Mass Effect. The context in which these two products appeared is similar and, thus, provides for a positive answer to Bogost’s question. Mass Effect may be that long awaited Citizen Kane of video games. Moreover, from this very debate, we may draw a side set of conclusions about the scarcity of methods and means to use in analyzing this new artistic medium. The paper ends by proposing a Cultural Studies approach to the study of video games as the most fitting type of discourse – that would not only interpret but also consolidate this very young medium.

Keywords: Cultural Studies, video game studies, film studies, Orson Welles