My doctoral thesis looks at what I call “Anthropocene temporalities” in video games in order to understand a new structure of feeling particular to these times that is expressed using particular temporal narratives and affects. This research is part of a larger interdisciplinary project called Lifetimes: a Natural History of the Present. I hope to defend the thesis in the winter of 2022.
Abstract: “Anthropocene Temporalities in Videogames: The Anthropocene as a Structure of Feeling in Popular Gameplay”
The Anthropocene describes a new geological epoch that is marked in an enduring, material way by the impact of humankind, which has led to disastrous changes in the global climate and biosphere. It marks the end of the Holocene, a period of relative climate stability which provided the perfect conditions for the incubation of human civilization. The new age will be known by a hotter, more unpredictable climate, sea level rise, and a severe loss of biodiversity. From a cultural studies perspective, the new age will also be marked by a changing set of concerns and attitudes that reflect, respond to, and process this realization, constituting a new structure of feeling, which is a quality (or set of qualities) that characterizes the socio-cultural experience of a specific period.
This dissertation looks at recent, single-player videogames in order to tease out some of these concerns and attitudes, asking in particular how they give us access to the ways in which our conceptions and experiences of temporality have accrued new meanings and feelings in an age deeply impacted by climate change and other signs of environmental crisis. This focus on temporality is based on the assumption that our experience of time influences how we inhabit the world. Everyday rhythms, the felt trajectories of our lives, and the ways in which we experience the past, present, and future are all crucial in the establishment of a sense of agency and subjectivity.
After an introductory chapter that draws together scholarship in the fields of ecogame studies and critical time studies, this dissertation features five chapters that identify different Anthropocene temporalities in videogames. Chapter two discusses procedural futurism in climate simulation games; chapter three identifies a particular chronotope, or space-time in ecological god games; chapter four examines videogames’ engagement with the rhythms and entropic trajectories of deep time; chapter five tackles the enduring, abiding time of oil in oil-themed games; and chapter six identifies the emerging trend of dark seasonality in videogames.