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Pixel Cowboys and Silicon Gold Mines: Videogames of the American West

John Wills
Pacific Historical Review
Vol. 77, No. 2 (May 2008), pp. 273-303
DOI: 10.1525/phr.2008.77.2.273
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/phr.2008.77.2.273
Page Count: 31
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Pixel Cowboys and Silicon Gold Mines: Videogames of the American West
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Abstract

This article explores representations of the American West in computer and videogames from the late 1970s through 2006. The article reveals how several titles, including the early Boot Hill (1977), invoked classic nineteenth-century western motifs, employing the six-shooter, wagon train, and iron horse to sell late twentieth-century entertainment technology to a global audience. Such games allowed players, typically adolescent males, to recreate a version of history and to participate actively in the more violent aspects of the “Wild West.” The arcade Western emerged as a subgenre within computer entertainment, offering a distinctive, interactive amalgam of popular frontier-based fictions, including the nineteenth-century dime novel, Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, and the modern Hollywood western. Computer technology thus served established myths surrounding the “Wild West,” even as New Western History was challenging their authenticity.

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