Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment 8.2
Autumn 2017

Guest editors: John Parham (University of Worcester, UK) and Alenda Chang (University of California, Santa Barbara) 

Green Computer and Video Games

In Last Child in the Woods (2008) Richard Louv indicts computers and game consoles as part of his thesis that the generations of children born since the 1970s are suffering from ‘nature-deficit disorder’. Yet gaming, now, is an enormous growth industry while, correspondingly, computer or video games are rapidly becoming a key area of research in ‘ecomedia’ or green cultural studies.

Ecocritical studies of games and gaming raise fundamental questions about the capacity of popular culture to present complex ecological and environmental ideas and themes and to raise public awareness, not least amongst substantial, often younger, audiences. In several studies critics have legitimately argued that games and gaming can have ecologically or environmentally damaging consequences: they can serve to remove, distance or screen us from nature; games can be ideologically complicit as Witherford and de Peuter suggest, powerfully, in Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games (2009); moreover, as Maxwell and Miller argue in Greening the Media (2012), supposedly low impact new media, including video or computer games, have merely perpetuated the detrimental material-ecological impact of ‘old media’: waste and pollution created by ‘planned cycles’ of obsolescence; or the toxic risk of rapidly discarded and dismantled components of disposable, rapidly evolving media technologies.

Nevertheless, a green reading of computer games encapsulates the contradictions that govern popular texts’ engagement with environmental or ecological themes. In that context, consideration of the anthropocentric and/or ideological dimensions of electronic games has to be balanced and offset against a variety of factors: the educational utility of ‘serious games’; McKenzie Wark’s argument that games productively dissolve the boundary between the virtual and the real (Gamer Theory (2007)); Alenda Y. Chang’s argument that we can learn ecological principles in the act (and interactivity) of playing a game (‘Games as Environmental Texts’, Qui Parle 19:2 (2011)); a complex ‘media ecology’ encompassing both a rich tradition of independent, countercultural, and ‘dissonant’ games, game companies, and gaming communities and online, massive multiplayer games where intercultural dialogue might facilitate an ‘eco-cosmopolitan’ popular culture. Most substantially, at the level of the text, there is also the potential of ‘meditative’ or immersive games to constitute a deep ecological sense of ecological interconnectedness; or, conversely, the role that educational games can play in teaching the precepts of ecological science or in nurturing awareness by simulating processes of social-ecological decision-making around topics such as energy supply, conservation, or the construction of sustainable cities (as in SimCity 4).

Proposals are invited for, but not limited to, essays considering video or computer games in relation to:

  • representation, and the modelling of nature, environment, the sublime etc.
  • interplays of real/virtual, action/simulation, the physical world/gamespace.
  • imagining and constructing utopian and/or dystopian societies.
  • environmental awareness and the formal properties of games/gaming, encompassing: interactivity; gameplay; narrative; game design; algorithmic structure; software code etc.
  • games and sustainable education.
  • games and scientific education.
  • genre studies: e.g. farm games; strategy games; conservation games; ‘meditative’ games; adventure games.
  • framings of nature and/or ideological framing in computer games.
  • modes of production: the gaming industry; ‘indie’ games; massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs); public sector/educational games.
  • ‘dissonant’ games, gamers, games companies.
  • intercultural and ‘eco-cosmopolitan’ dimensions to gaming.
  • the eco-materiality of game production, distribution, waste, recycling etc.
  • games and ecocritical theory e.g. mimesis; dark ecology; material ecology.

Please direct your questions to John Parham j.parham@worc.ac.uk. Manuscripts (6.000 – 8.000 words) should be submitted via the online journal platform no later than January 15th, 2017. See http://www.ecozona.eu/index.php/journal. All submissions will be subject to peer review. Authors must comply with the guidelines of Ecozon@ as indicated on the platform, including title, abstracts and keywords (these must be provided in the language of the article, and in English and Spanish). MLA style is expected for citations. Permission must be obtained for any images used and included in the text. Manuscripts will be accepted in English, French, German, and Spanish. Submissions in other languages may be considered. Please discuss with the editors.

Although this is not a formal requirement, we would like to encourage potential contributors to contact the guest editor with an abstract (approx. 500 words) prior to handing in their full article. Please submit your abstract by September 15th, 2016.