Within the Mainstream. An Ecocritical Framework for Digital Game History

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Ecocriticism of digital games has so far engaged with a rather small corpus of examples, predominantly from a prescriptive perspective and with a quite limited methodological toolkit. This essay systematizes and historicizes some of these commonly found limitations of past research and proposes methods for a more historically and generically diverse exploration of ecological thinking vis-à-vis digital games. The majority of discussions of games from an ecocritical perspective has applied concepts and frameworks borrowed from literature and film studies, thus privileging surface semiotics over game mechanics. More methodically aware studies have oriented themselves toward the popular framework of procedural rhetoric (Bogost 2007), resulting both in a selection bias towards serious games and an author-centric, intentionalist slant inherent in the approach. In general, the discussion revolves around a small number of games with apparent ecocritical potential, such as Myst (Cyan 1993) or Farmville (Zynga 2009), resulting in a selective, a-historic and therefore distorted discussion of ecology in the diverse medium of digital games. This essay discusses strategies for dealing with a larger corpus of digital games through a descriptive matrix for identifying and analyzing the ecological dimension of digital games. It proposes an extension of the ecocritical toolkit by including a more user-centered, ethics-based theoretical framework based on Sicart’s Ethics of Computer Games (2009). The gain of engaging with representation and simulation of the natural environment in mainstream computer game history will be demonstrated in an analysis of two paradigmatic games. In both Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar San Diego 2010) and Dishonored (Arkane Studios 2013), we encounter game design geared toward producing ludo-narrative dissonances which are highly inductive of critical engagement with the ecosphere.
TidsskriftEcozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)39-55
Antal sider17
StatusUdgivet - 2017


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