Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Title

The Game Culture Reader




In the epigraph to this collection, we return to a foundational text of the western literary canon, Homer’s Odyssey, and see in Penelope’s “bow contest” an illustrative moment in the history of game culture. Having fought in the Trojan War and having survived his ten-year trek home, the weary Odysseus cannot simply show up—the returning hero must rout the odious suitors whom Penelope has forestalled. In order to buy more time for vengeance, Odysseus disguises himself as an old beggar; in order to buy more time for deferral, Penelope creates an unwinnable game: she will marry the suitor able to string Odysseus’ bow and shoot an arrow through the handles of twelve axes.

We contend that this ludic scene from the Odyssey—an exemplar of literature, which is a constituent of Western culture—mirrors the ludic scene of digital games—exemplars of media, which are constituent of global culture.1 As a canonical text, the Odyssey clearly has an influence on subsequent texts, yet we know that contemporary texts will condition reception of the Odyssey just as surely as we saw and heard people on the Costa Concordia claim that their experience was like being in the movie Titanic instead of like being aboard the ship RMS Titanic.

Original Publication Citation

Thompson, J. C., & Ouellete, M. A. (2013). Introduction;: A game's study manifesto. In J. C. Thompson & M. A. Ouellete (Eds.), The game culture reader (pp. 1-13). Cambridge Scholars Publishing.