Greenshifting Game Studies

Arguments for an Ecocritical Approach to Digital Games

Essay - Greenshifting Games

Every time I talk or write about ecology as a tool or merely an inspiration for hermeneutic approaches to cultural artifacts, I feel like I need to start off with a confession: I am no hardcore, dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist. Not only do I have serious doubts about the compatibility of hardcore environmentalism and dyed wool, I find it hard to subscribe to any sort of Ism, doctrine, or universal approach. And still, with all the relativism of the comparatist whose only creed is that there are always two (or more) ways of looking at any matter, I have become deeply fascinated with ecocriticism lately. Ecocriticism, the application of ecological thinking to humanism (and especially literary studies) developed in parallel with game studies, starting in the late 1970s and coming to real scholarly prominence in the mid- to late-1990s. I have been engaged in game studies since the late 1990s, and when I propose here to introduce a Greenshift into our field, it is not a moral, ideological, or philosophical argument I want to make, but merely a practical one: I am confident that the blend of ecological ideals and humanistic hermeneutics developed by ecocriticism holds great promise for game studies. Continue Reading

Procedural Diegesis

Treating the Game Engine as Co-Author

Essay - Procedural Diegesis

Let’s talk about narration and videogames. In this case, narration refers to a game’s story, as told by the writers and the game engine. When there is discord between narrators, the story suffers, and when there is harmony, the narrative is more persuasive. Let’s call this element of storytelling ‘procedural diegesis,’ knowing that it involves treating algorithmic and authorial processes as co-authors of a narrative. The procedural portion here highlights that we are interested in processes, systems of representation that unfold over time that are dictated by rules and/or conventions. By diegesis we mean to indicate the internal consistency of the narrative. Together, they represent a form of narrative criticism that cares very little for content but quite a lot about delivery. Like Ian Bogost’s procedural rhetoric, which has informed much of this article, this perspective enables one to critique representational processes, only this time we are looking for coherence between narrative processes. In that respect it is beneficial to think of each narrator (writer, physics engine, texture mapping, audio system, etc.) as a system… Continue Reading