Empathy for Ecosystems : On the Environmental Orientation of Videogames

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Empathy for Ecosystems : On the Environmental Orientation of Videogames

Title: Empathy for Ecosystems : On the Environmental Orientation of Videogames
Author: op de Beke, Laura
Issue Date: 2018-11-30
Keywords: Environmental Videogame Criticism
The Environmental Humanities
Empathy for Ecosystems
Incorporated Care Ethics
Fate of the World
Waking Mars
Stardew Valley
Abstract: Videogame scholar James Paul Gee has wondered on numerous occasions whether videogames have the capacity to inspire “a sort of embodied empathy for complex systems.” In this thesis I take that question one step further and ask whether they can do so for virtual ecosystems. In other words this thesis explores whether what makes up the environmental orientation of videogames, among other things, is a sense of embodied empathy for the ecosystems they simulate, and from what procedural, narrative, and visual conditions this sense of empathy may be derived. In order to provide a more substantial theoretical ground from which to launch my inquiry, I develop Gee’s understanding of embodiment according to Gordon Calleja’s concept of “incorporation,” which helps me clarify how videogames involve players in ecosystems in ways that are medium-specific. Additionally, I reconceptualize the notion of empathy according to Robert Pogue Harrison’s “garden of care,” from which I distil a particular kind of emotional and ethical response to the environment, one that I conclude features differently in each of the games I single out for analysis: Fate of the World, Waking Mars, and Stardew Valley. This response, which is founded on responsibility and engagement plays an important role in their environmental orientation by establishing a relationship of care between the player and the game environment. The nature of this relationship however, is different in each encounter, depending on the way the game environment manifests itself, and how openly it solicits care.
Supervisor: Hoving, Isabel
Faculty: Faculty of HumanitiesResearch master thesis
Department: Literary Studies (Research master)
Specialisation: English Literature
ECTS Credits: 25
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/67058

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