Mountain, Water, Game: Environmental Play in Digital Worlds

Event Date: 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 - 12:00pm

Event Location: 

  • SSMS 2135

Dr. Alenda Chang, Film and Media Studies, UCSB


A shrouded traveler struggles across a sandy waste to reach a distant peak; a girl climbs the remains of a skyscraper to look out over a drowned city; and a mountain waits patiently for rains that only keystroked melodies can bring—these just three of the imagined worlds featured in recent digital games. Yet half a century into their evolution as a medium, computer and video games remain largely unexamined as objects of environmental inquiry. While games are often studied as late forms of narrative and visual culture, they are also, importantly, environmental constructs. This presentation will roam accordingly across a wide intellectual terrain, including environmental philosophy, geography, ecology, and art history, to suggest some of the cultural and psychological significance of ludic space and place. Game worlds may inevitably replicate contemporary techniques of spatial monitoring and control, but they also hearken back to less rationalized modes of environmental experience based in affect and embodied subjectivity.

About the Speaker:

Alenda Y. Chang is an Assistant Professor in Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara. With a multidisciplinary background in biology, literature, and film, she specializes in merging ecocritical theory with the analysis of contemporary media. Her writing has recently been featured in Ant Spider Bee, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, and Qui Parle; and her current book project develops ecological frameworks for understanding and designing digital games. She also maintains the Growing Games blog as a resource for researchers in game and ecomedia studies and the environmental humanities.