What Is an Ecological Game? Examining Gaming’s Ecological Dynamics and Metaphors through the Survival-Crafting Genre

Abraham, Benjamin. 2018. “What Is an Ecological Game? Examining Gaming’s Ecological Dynamics and Metaphors through the Survival-Crafting Genre.” TRACE, no. 2: Ecoplay, Digital Games, and Environmental Rhetoric.

“Huge, industry shaping titles like No Man’s Sky (2016), Skyrim (2011), and the Far Cry series (2004-present) make much use of design tropes that have been described by developers, critics and scholars alike as ‘emergent’ – with the story or narrative emerging, at least in part, in a dynamic fashion, in response to the complex interaction of a host of systems and objects.”

“Similar to the concept of emergence, environmental storytelling evokes the sense of a living, active world with a prior history or backstory that predates the current game world or the state that it is in.”

“In summary then, crafting dynamics hew closely to economic ideas, replicating capitalist notions of return on investment and increasing rates of wealth accumulation (if in rather simplified, cartoonish ways).”

“Further, we can compare the trajectory of increasing degrees of player ‘mastery’ over the landscape over time to a similar trajectory in Western history, with a deep (if simplified) connection to metanarratives about the triumph of humanity over ‘nature’.”

“Perhaps the ecological thought challenges our very notion of game coherence and the boundaries of the play experience, seeming to entreat us, paradoxically, to think both bigger and smaller at the same time.”

Availability: Open Access through OPUS: https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/handle/10453/121683


Abraham. What Is an Ecological Game? Examining Gaming’s Ecological Dynamics and Metaphors through the Survival-Crafting Genre