WEBINAR: Anthropocene Temporalities in Videogames. Environmental Lunchtime Discussion

Do videogames help us engage with climate change and the nonhuman timescale of the Anthropocene? Or do they reflect exactly the kind of expansionist, techno-utopian logic that got us into this crisis in the first place? Most likely, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Image may contain: Strategy video game, Games, Screenshot, Pc game.

Screencap from The Universim (Crytivo, 2020)

Game scholar Alenda Chang argues that videogames are “mesocosms” – or miniature ecosystems that feature abstract principles from the real world, treading “a fine line between bounded tidiness and inclusive reality” (2019, 21).

This talk briefly introduces the potential of videogames as environmental media by focusing on the way they engage with what I call Anthropocene temporality. In particular, I highlight a trope that has become popular in so-called god games recently: the move from map-style interfaces to the use of whole Earth images and models. This trope signals an overt and growing – although as I will point out, imperfect – engagement with planetarity: an emerging worldview that posits the planet as a world-ecology, one that imbeds both human and nonhuman forces while calling for a renewed attendance to the ethics and aesthetics of relationality.

At the same time, my talk will also note the perpetuation in videogames of generic tropes and conventions like the tech tree and expansionist gameplay – which run counter to their environmentalist message. In doing so they videogames stage a dynamic at the heart of Anthropocene temporality, which casts humans as geologic subjects embedded in a planetary ecology that we continuously bump up against or seek to transcend. 

Chang, Alenda. Playing Nature: Ecology in Videogames. University of Minnesota Press, 2019.

About Laura op de Beke

Laura op de Beke is a PhD fellow at the University of Oslo with a background in North American Studies and Literary Studies though in recent years her research has shifted to videogame studies and the environmental humanities more generally. She is currently working on a dissertation on the Anthropocene temporalities of videogames. This work is part of a larger research project called Lifetimes: A Natural History of the Present. In collaboration with OSEH, Laura also hosts a monthly environmental humanities reading group, a record of which can be accessed here.

About the event series

The OSEH Environmental Lunchtime Discussion series consists of short, 10-15 minute presentations by invited guests, followed by a discussion. We invite speakers from a wide variety of fields, both academic and beyond. The presentations are accessible and are aimed at anyone with an interest in environmental issues. All are welcome.

Tags: Environmental Humanities, HF, IKOS, OSEH, video games
Published Sep. 1, 2020 9:38 AM - Last modified Sep. 4, 2020 1:39 PM