JFK Reloaded: Documentary Framing and the Simulated Document


  • Cindy Poremba Concordia University


Often the most well known “documentary videogames” are the most controversial. JFK Reloaded—a game based on the assassination of American president John F. Kennedy—is one of the better known examples. When it rose to public attention in 2004, the game added fuel to a growing outcry over violence and inappropriate content in videogames. It was explicitly condemned by the Kennedy family—and even used to signify the moral vacuum of digital games in an episode of the television series Law and Order . JFKR has always fallen back in defense on its “documentary” status– specifically, that the core simulation at the heart of the gameplay, and supporting game elements such as vantage points, are based meticulously on real Warren Commission data. I will argue a strong indexical relation in JFKR lies between the game and the documents—not the historic act itself. As such, the game’s primary strength as a documentary work is in re-engaging the archive, rather than simulating history.