Biopower and Play: Spore and Bioshock
This project takes up as its focus the ongoing fascination with narratives of nature and discourses of control in the worlds of digital games and gaming culture. In a range of gaming genres and franchises we see nature as plot device, as backdrop, as a menacing or chaotic environment in need of management and regulation, and as a rich set of malleable materials ripe for human manipulation. Our attention is on two titles and franchises in particular: BioShock and Spore. Both are representative of narrative tropes concerning nature that have become common to digital games across many genres, platforms and styles. We examine two different aspects of these games: the relationship between their discursive representations of nature and the affective dimensions of their gameplay. A close analysis of these two elements allow us to explore how the immersive qualities of these games offers a biopolitical simulation in which the gamer manages relationships between the human and nonhuman and scripts the conditions of possibility for encountering the natural world. We assert that these digital games offer therefore a unique insight into contemporary understandings of nature, where anxieties and desires about environmental crises are acted out, managed, and temporarily reconciled.
A paper co-written by Stephanie Rutherford (Trent University) and myself “Biopower and Play: Bodies, Spaces and Nature in Digital Games” is forthcoming in Aether: Journal of Media Geography.