The Ludic Geopolitics of Extraterrestrial Videogame Spaces

Authors: Megan Rose O'Kane*, Queen's University Belfast
Topics: Cultural Geography, Political Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: Popular geopolitics, outer space, videogames, digital geographies, astropolitics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon B2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Merging two understudied subfields of geography, this paper will assess the concurrence of two relatively intangible concepts: outer space and cyber space - specifically the popular geopolitical and astropolitical scriptings of the 'final frontier' in videogame spaces. The virtual imaginaries and abstracted realities of the videogame universe offer speculative depictions of the present and future of Earth and beyond, and act as a ‘virtual appendage of Earthspace’ (Dittmer, 2007: 115). However, extraterrestrial geographies of ‘imaginary play spaces’ are largely neglected in academic literature (Shaw & Sharp, 2013: 3). In response to this research gap, this paper will address the outer-space narrative discourses encoded within a selection of popular immersive twenty-first century videogames using cyber ethnographic methods: No Man's Sky, and the Halo, Mass Effect and Red Faction series. The meanings enmeshed in the dystopian and utopian cosmogenic constructions of non-Earth spaces reflect real political and philosophical attitudes and anxieties, and carry terrestrial connotations beyond the confines of these individual virtual laboratories. Both videogame developers and space agencies are at the forefront of defying geographic and technological boundaries, and the newly emergent ability to critically ‘play’ with the ethereal in gameworld environments highlights the existence of a virtual ‘space race’ among videogame developers (Flanagan, 2009).

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