The Climate Unconscious and Computer Games

Authors: Peter Nelson*, , Bogna Konior, Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie, Bauhaus University, Weimar
Topics: Cultural Geography, Anthropocene, Landscape
Keywords: Landscape studies, media studies, climate change, platform studies, Garry’s Mod
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Calvert Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Exceeding our perceptual capacities, climate change is not easily apprehended as a spatial phenomenon. Given its relative unrepresentability beyond singular natural disasters, ‘space,’ as a term of landscape studies rather than visual culture, can nevertheless relate to us what Julie Leyda calls a ‘climate unconscious,’ the contemporary unacknowledged determinant of all cultural production. In this paper, we introduce a collaborative research project across landscape studies and media studies, focusing on the computer game Garry’s Mod. Within the proprietary enclosure of the Valve Source Engine, its players flood servers with converted fragments from popular media and improvise temporary ludic activities on a sprawling network of independently regulated servers. We outline how this patchwork of discrete places is the paradigmatic landscape of climate change, showing the interrelation of environmental, virtual and economic precarity. Modding economies, commercial game engines, and networked multiplayer game environments do not simply represent environmental concerns but rather parallel contemporary geosocial anxiety in its organising structure, where climate-fiction presents itself as the unlikely route to realism, and the precarious ‘playbour’ of gamers replaces visual representation as the chief arena of political culture.

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