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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Playing the Environment: Games as Virtual Ecologies


Alarming environmental trends are increasingly the subject of a variety of games that suggest surprising new approaches to both game studies and environmental advocacy, traditionally conceived. Such games raise an interesting complex of questions: how do games model “nature” and relevant scientific theories, and how do code-based representations of nature differ from those in more traditional media? Do games potentially permit a better understanding of natural processes by moving past the mere visualization of data to procedural or algorithmic embodiment? As the work of Ian Bogost and Alexander Galloway, among others, suggests, digital games and networked media offer promising avenues not only for rendering the realities of environmental crisis—nature as problem space—but also for schematizing possible solutions in ways that leverage the unique affordances of the computer, the Internet, and player collectives.

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