[Game: Journey, thatgamecompany, 2012]
Not Lone nor Level Sands:

A Thorough Ecocritical Analysis of thatgamecompany’s Journey

Introduction:

The first and most dominant visual motif of Journey is . . . sand. As the game begins, an unfathomably vast desert of fine-grain sand stretches in every direction. Clouds of it move through the wind, and block out the sky. The area is a beige-tan wasteland of desolate, arid sediment, which unimpeded winds have gathered into rhythmic and monotonous dunes. And directly before the player-character lies one such large ridge of sand. Trudging up this dune reveals a landmark: a distinctive bifurcated mountain thrusts through the sand up into the air, undaunted by its dusty environs, emitting a glow at the point of union between its dual peaks. The destination is set, and with a slide down the obverse of the dune, the eponymous journey begins. It won’t be until that journey is roughly 80 percent over that, on emerging from a tall cave-bound temple, one actually finally exits the dust, dirt, and sand.

Yet, for all this emphasis, I have found that extant analyses of Journey have disappointingly little to say about sand. That is, the landscapes of the game—so foregrounded by Journey’s lack of HUD, lack of dialogue, distant camera position, and relative mechanical simplicity—are treated as irrelevant set dressing by those who have provided interpretations of the game’s content.

Now, why does that matter? Well, because: it means that, though people pontificate endlessly about the vague resonances between Journey’s campaign and a human lifespan, and about the several arguable overlaps between some of its story beats and the religious beliefs of different human cultures, they have ignored some key details of its literal narrative, which are intimately connected to its setting. And in particular, they’ve thereby ignored a theme which this quiet game is trumpeting fairly loud: its allegorical discussion of a relationship between intelligent beings and their world.

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[Game: Journey, thatgamecompany, 2012]
Not Lone nor Level Sands:

A Thorough Ecocritical Analysis of thatgamecompany’s Journey

was last modified: December 23rd, 2023 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Factorio, Wube Software, 2020]
Bug Hunt at Outpost Mine:

An Ecocritical Analysis of Wube Software’s Wildly Addictive Optimization Simulator Factorio

 

Introduction:

Any analysis of the relationship between the player-character and their environment in Factorio must begin with an acknowledgement that Factorio is a game that does considerably more to accurately depict the environmental impact of human industrial development than the vast majority of its peers in the simulation, management, strategy, and puzzle genres.

In Stardew Valley, for instance, not only do forests rapidly regrow and lakes never deplete of fish, but quarries, mines, and caves also replenish with stone and ore from day to day. Similarly, while Infinifactory does periodically foreground topics like mining, exploitation, and waste in its story and puzzle design—it nevertheless provides an infinite supply of inputs that can be accelerated or decelerated at will, even when those inputs are living creatures. Even games like Terraria and Minecraft, which go so far as to represent resource acquisition as a zero sum game, nevertheless depict all processing, combining, and consuming of those resources as a pollution-free, byproduct-free non-zero sum game.

By contrast, in Factorio, resources are finite; resources don’t always combine cleanly into singular products; pollution results from production; and pollution has consequences for both the world and the player. Nevertheless, despite its demonstrable steps in the right direction, Factorio preserves a great many of the negative practical and psychological trends embodied by such optimization- and development-focused titles. In fact, it is precisely because Factorio does so much to emphasize the topics of resource scarcity and pollution that its weaknesses in the realm of environmentalism shine so brightly.

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[Game: Factorio, Wube Software, 2020]
Bug Hunt at Outpost Mine:

An Ecocritical Analysis of Wube Software’s Wildly Addictive Optimization Simulator Factorio

was last modified: April 16th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski