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The home, the city, and the wild in avatar-based videogames

Sat, September 1, 4:00 to 5:30pm, ICC, E3.4


This paper argues that developments in videogames over the last ten years have seen new mechanisms of emotional investment in domestic-, nature-, and city-based spaces emerge in avatar-based gameplay. In doing so, this paper reports back on a ludological survey of 71 videogames selected for their economic and aesthetic representations of cities, homes, and natural spaces.

The city has been a focus of digital videogames since the earliest days of their release. In Hammurabi (1978) for instance, one takes on the role of a ruler of an ancient city, warding off famine and managing the lives of its citizens. With the release of The Sims in 2000, the architectural focus in videogames shifted towards domestic spaces, with an increasing focus on building homes. While both tendencies have developed their own trajectories, there are a number of games where these two forms of gameplay converge. A number of key games, notably Dwarf Fortress (2006), Minecraft (2009-), and the videogame series for The Witcher (2007-), Dragon Age (2009-), Mass Effect (2007-), Watch_Dogs (2014), and Assassin’s Creed (2007-) series, detail complex interrelationships between cities, homes, and wilderness spaces. This paper will build on published work (Fordyce 2018) to report back on a theorisation of the different forms of investment that become possible in these digital spaces.