Ecogames: Playful Perspectives on the Climate Crisis

by on 22/01/2024

Games are increasingly engaging with the climate crisis and its repercussions. Ecogames: Playful Perspectives on the Climate Crisis brings together authors who explore the aspects of ecocritical engagement in and through games.

The book is edited by Laura op de BekeJoost Raessens, and Stefan Werning (Utrecht University), together with Gerald Farca (Macromedia University of Applied Sciences, Munich).

Framing the climate crisis

Cover Ecogames
Cover Ecogames

Games are increasingly participating in the production, circulation, and interrogation of environmental assumptions, using both implicit and explicit ways of framing the climate crisis. Whether they are providing new spaces to imagine and practice alternative forms of living, or reproducing ecomodernist fantasies, games as well as player cultures are increasingly tuned in to the most pressing environmental concerns. 

Green media studies

This book brings together chapters by a diverse group of established and emerging authors to develop a growing body of scholarship that explores the shape, impact, and cultural context of ecogames. The book comprises four thematic sections, Today’s Challenges: Games for Change, Future Worlds: New Imaginaries, The Nonhuman Turn, and Critical Metagaming Practices. Each section explores different aspects of ecocritical engagement in and through games. As a result, the book’s comprehensive scope covers a variety of angles, methodologies, and case studies, significantly expanding the field of green media studies.

To accommodate this diversity, as well as the diversity in the range of approaches and viewpoints apparent in environmental videogame scholarship, the book comprises four sections (see Figure above). We consider these four sections to cover the scope of the entire field, from gaming to metagaming (IV), i.e. using games for purposes other than playing by the rules, from the human to nonhuman (III) dimensions, and from contemporary challenges (I) to sustainable future imaginaries (II).

Part I: Games for Change

  1. Change for Games: On Sustainable Design Patterns for the (Digital) Future
    Alenda Y. Chang
  2. Do You Want to Set the World on Fire? Amplifying Player Agency to Demonstrate Alternatives to the Climate Crisis
    Péter Kristóf Makai
  3. Between the Lines: Using Differential Game Analysis to Develop Environmental Thinking
    Hans-Joachim Backe
  4. A Dynamic Engagement Model to Provide Ecological Awareness of the Climate Crisis through Video Games
    Thomas Bjørner and Henrik Schønau-Fog
  5. Postcoloniality, Ecocriticism and Lessons from the Playable Landscape
    Soraya Murray
  6. No Cyclones in Age of Empires: Empire, Ecology and Videogames
    Souvik Mukherjee
  7. Games for Better Futures: The Art and Joy of Making and Unmaking Societies
    Joost M. Vervoort, Carien Moossdorff, and Kyle A. Thompson

Part II: Future Worlds

  1. Climate—Game—Worlds: A Media-Aesthetic Look at the Depiction and Function of Climate in Computer Games
    Birgit Schneider and Sebastian Möring
  2. Healing the Self, Humanity, and the Earth: Slowness and Ecosophy in Death Stranding
    Víctor Navarro-Remesal and Mateo Terrasa Torres
  3. Ecology in the Post-Apocalypse: Regenerative Play in the Metro Series and the Critical Dystopia
    Gerald Farca
  4. There is No Planet B: A Milieu-Specific Analysis of Outer Wilds’ Unstable Spaces
    Lauren Woolbright
  5. Green New Worlds? Ecology and Energy in Planetary Colonization Games
    Paweł Frelik
  6. Dark Play and the Flow Time of Petroculture in Oil-themed Games
    Laura op de Beke
  7. The Potential and Limitations of Diving Ecogames: A Content Analysis and Reception Study of Abzû
    Gabrielle Trépanier-Jobin, Maeva Charre-Tchang, and Sylvie Largeaud-Ortega

Part III: The Non-Human Turn

  1. “Have you ever heard a worm sing?” The Spectral Ecology of Kentucky Route Zero, Act V
    Jordan Youngblood
  2. Hiding (in) the Tall Grass: Rethinking Background Assets in Videogame Plantscapes
    Merlin Seller
  3. Symbiosis, or How to Make Kin in the Chthulucene
    Joost Raessens
  4. Mutate or Die: Neo-Lamarckian Ecogames and Responsible Evolution
    Colin Milburn
  5. No Man’s Game: The Infinite Boredom of Procedurally Generated Environments
    Paolo Ruffino
  6. Trans Ecologies in Digital Games and Contemporary Art
    micha cárdenas
  7. The Earth’s Prognosis: Doom and Transformation in Game Design
    Kara Stone

Part IV: Critical Metagaming Practices

  1. What Do We (NDNs) Do with Games?
    Jordan Clapper
  2. Imagining the Future: Game Hacking and Youth Climate Action
    Chloé Germaine and Paul Wake
  3. Re-framing the Backlog: Radical Slowness and Patient Gaming
    Rainforest Scully-Blaker
  4. Material Infrastructures of Play: How the Games Industry Reimagines Itself in the Face of Climate Crisis
    Sonia Fizek
  5. Sustainable Fandom: Responsible Consumption and Play in Game Communities
    Nicolle Lamerichs
  6. A Field Guide to Monsters: Practices of Wildlife Watching in Video Games
    Melissa Bianchi
  7. Remediating Green Practices: Landscape Photography and Nature Documentary Filmmaking in Videogames
    Stefan Werning