Video Games for Earthly Survival: Gaming in the Post-Anthropocene

Ruffino, Paolo (2018) Video Games for Earthly Survival: Gaming in the Post-Anthropocene. In: Digital Cultures, 19-22 September 2018, Leuphana University, Germany.

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Digital Cultures
Conference programme
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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


In this paper I evaluate the sixth mass extinction on planet Earth, and its implications
for the medium of the video game. The Anthropocene, a term popularized by the
end of the 20th century to refer to the geological impact of human beings on
planet Earth, assumes temporal development, a ‘before’ and ‘after’ the appearance
of humankind. The ‘after’ period, the Post-Anthropocene, is repeatedly claimed by
scientists to be approaching within the next few decades, as over-consumption is
destroying vital resources of the planet. Allegedly, the sixth mass extinction in the
history of our planet is already unfolding, and might determine the disappearance of
life from Earth and, as far as we know, from the Universe and beyond. Video games
responding to the arrival of the future is not just imagined in fictional settings (e.g.
The Legenda of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Nintendo, 2000; Horizon: Zero Dawn, Guerrilla
Games, 2017), but within game design. In the last decade an increasing number of
video games requiring limited human intervention has been released. Incremental/
idle games such as Cookie Clicker (Julien Thiennot, 2013) and AdVenture Capitalist
(Hyper Hippo Productions, 2014) require an initial input from the player to
start, and then keep playing themselves in the background operations of a laptop
or smartphone. Virtual environments can be entirely designed by algorithms, as
experimented by Hello Games for No Man’s Sky (2016). Artificial Intelligence is also
used to play games. Screeps, a massive-multiplayer online game, requires players to
program an AI that will play the game in their place, and which will “live within the
game even while you are offline” (Screeps Team, 2014). Ghost cars in racing games
replace the human actor with a representation of their performance. The same
concept is further explored by the Drivatar of the Forza Motorsport series (Microsoft
Studios, 2005-2017), which simulates the driving style of the player and competes
online against other AI-controlled cars. These are only some of the examples that
suggest that human beings are becoming peripheral in the act of playing games. In
short, it is probably becoming ‘easier to imagine the end of the world than the end
of gaming’. While studies on games with no players, and on the non-human side
of gaming, have been proposed in the past, my presentation takes a non-normative
and non-systemic approach to the study of games for the Post-Anthropocene. I am
concerned with the creative potential of the paradoxes, spoofs, and contradictions
opened by games that take Man/Anthropos as being no longer at the centre of
‘interaction’, ‘fun’, and many other mythological aspects of digital gaming. Nonhuman
gaming questions the historical, political, ecological and even geological
situatedness of our knowledge on games and gamers, interaction and passivity, life
and death.

Keywords:Media Studies, Anthropocene, Game Studies, Games Cultures, nonhuman
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
Relation typeTarget identifier
Research project Nonhuman Gaming32838
Research project Nonhuman Gaming32840
Research project Nonhuman Gaming30907
ID Code:33226
Deposited On:20 Oct 2018 21:50

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