[-empyre-] Is green gaming an oxymoron?

Lauren Woolbright lwoolbright at gmail.com
Wed Mar 4 16:39:38 AEDT 2020

Thank you to Alenda for the excellent introduction to this week's topic and
to Jeff and Sonia for jumping right in with some of the most challenging
dilemmas we face as we operate, as Alenda writes, "with a walking stick in
one hand and a joystick in the other" (*Playing Nature*).

To attempt to tackle Sonia's lingering question of how we begin to shift
the wasteful practices and demanding technologies that drive our "attention
economy," it cannot be something that happens in only one sector: players,
game developers and publishers, and those in control of the tech industries
(servers, etc.) that run our digital existences have to work together to
bring about change---and there needs to be pressure in order for that to
happen. Alenda already brought up the Playing 4 the Planet initiative
(though the link didn't work when I tried it earlier), a sort of games
industry Paris Agreement that sets goals for more sustainable gaming by


As we well know, such symbolic gestures (the term on the P4P site is "green
nudges") are an important first step, but they hardly guarantee results.
Most people are unaware of the social and environmental repercussions of
e-waste and the demand for resources to produce and maintain our (gaming)
tech, so concerted efforts to educate people would be a good start. I find
myself focused on these kinds of efforts in guiding student projects in
classes focused on environmental justice, but in teaching game design, I
tend to steer towards the content of games instead (impossible as these are
to disentangle).

I've been reading Amy Propen's *VIsualizing Posthuman Conservation in the
Age of the Anthropocene* (2018), and she opens chapter 1 with a comment on
the formation of worlds:
"World-making, as I understand and use the term, speaks to the ways that we
may participate  in the becoming of the world through the practices of
embodied knowledge-making in which we are always already entangled and in
which we are not the only participants; in this way, world-making is
knowledge-making and knowledge-making is world-making." (Propen 1)
I take this not only as a way of seeing our networked relationships the
material world, but also in the material of digital worlds in games.
Explorable spaces, finite resources, consequences for mismanagement,
narratives about effects. Ethics like the ones Propen advances centered on
kinship with non-human others can build new worlds---not just in our
digital spaces, but in our attitudes and practices in daily life. I am
thinking of the *Shelter* games in which the player-character is a mother
animal (badger in S1, lynx in S2) who must care for her young and keep them
alive through all manner of perils. I'd love to see a game like this tackle
more human-made obstacles, as Eco has done, with its catch-22 of improving
technology to save the world without destroying the world in the process. I
would be interested to see a game depict ecodepression, as another idea.

If we accept that gaming is as pervasive as the numbers say (and they are
almost as staggering as the statistics about e-pollution), then in
games---particularly mobile games---we have a platform for raising
questions of sustainability in as many worlds as we can imagine. And as we
well know, imaginary worlds can have a profound (if typically slow) effect
on material ones.


Lauren Woolbright, PhD

Editor, *OneShot: A Journal of Critical Games and Play*

Assistant Professor of New Media Studies

Alma College

Pronouns: she, her, herself

“The highest form of research is essentially play.”
― N.V. Scarfe, "Play Is Education" (2013)
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20200304/f0e91bf5/attachment.html>

More information about the empyre mailing list