In this paper I argue that computer games have the potential to offer spaces for ecological reflection, critique, and engagement. However, in many computer games, elements of the games’ procedural rhetoric limit this potential. In his account of American foundation narratives, environmental historian David Nye notes that the ‘second-creation’ narratives that he identifies “retain widespread attention [...] children play computer games such as SimCity, which invite them to create new communities from scratch in an empty virtual landscape…a malleable, empty space implicitly organized by a grid” (Nye 288). I begin by showing how grid-based resource management games encode a set of narratives in which nature is the location of resources to be extracted and used. I then examine the climate change game Fate of the World (2011), drawing it into comparison with game-like online policy tools such as the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change’s 2050 Calculator, and models such as the environmental scenario generation tool Foreseer. I argue that while both may be narrowly successful in generating engagement with climate change and resource issues, in other ways their effect may be disempowering: firstly, they emphasise the scale and complexity of environmental problems; secondly, the prioritise technocratic top-down policy responses at the expense of changes on the level of individual behaviour. This paper then turns to examples of digital games and playing strategies that offer more plural and open-ended engagement with environmental concerns. The on/off-line game World Without Oil (2007) encouraged players to respond to a fictional oil crisis, generating sustained and solution-focussed engagement. Examples of ‘expansive play’ also reveal ecocritical playing strategies in the sandbox-game Minecraft, a game which may initially seem to take the logic of resource extraction to its extreme. Finally, I look at David O'Reilly’s off-beat game-animation Mountain (2014), which in its unflinching mountain removes the agency of the player, and mocks the ‘nature as resource’ model of the games previously discussed. Instead Mountain invites an ontological reconsideration of the player’s relationship with the non-human.
|Translated title of the contribution||Recursos, escenarios, agencia: Juegos de ordenador sobre el medio ambiente|
|Number of pages||18|
|Early online date||31 Oct 2017|
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2017|
- Computer games
- climate change
- policy simulators