“Raji’s Burden”

Author(s) Soraya Murray
Contact Soraya Murray, Film, University of California, 1154 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA. E-mail: semurray@ucsc.edu
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 17, Iss. 1, 2023, pp. 10-37
Published December 22, 2023
Type Article
Abstract This article uses a visual culture studies approach to examine how video games invoking non-Western cultural specificities face heightened pressures to completely and “authentically” represent their cultures. Focusing on the independent Indian video game Raji: An Ancient Epic (Nodding Heads 2020) as a key example, I employ art historian Kobena Mercer’s concept of the “burden of representation” to show how race, ethnicity, and gender intersect in this game. I argue that there is more at work here than a superficial re-skinning of characters and game space to suit national tastes and aesthetics and that Raji enters into much larger and ongoing debates about the function of representation. Through deep reading and critical analysis of Raji’s characters and spaces, I provide a context for its role at the center of cultural and even political struggles. Ultimately, I show what representational stakes are revealed when a video game is overburdened with the responsibility of standing in for a whole culture, and why such interventions matter.
Keywords video games, Raji, Raji: An Ancient Epic, burden of representation, India