An analysis of wandering within different game worlds, viewed through the lenses of work, colonialism, gender, and death.
Wandering in games can be a theme, a formal mode, an aesthetic metaphor, or a player action. It can mean walking, escaping, traversing, meandering, or returning. In this book, game studies scholar Melissa Kagen introduces the concept of “wandering games,” exploring the uses of wandering in a variety of game worlds. She shows how the much-derided Walking Simulator—a term that began as an insult, a denigration of games that are less violent, less task-oriented, or less difficult to complete—semi-accidentally tapped into something brilliant: the vast heritage and intellectual history of the concept of walking in fiction, philosophy, pilgrimage, performance, and protest.
Kagen examines wandering in a series of games that vary widely in terms of genre, mechanics, themes, player base, studio size, and funding, giving close readings to Return of the Obra Dinn, Eastshade, Ritual of the Moon, 80 Days, Heaven's Vault, Death Stranding, and The Last of Us Part II. Exploring the connotations of wandering within these different game worlds, she considers how ideologies of work, gender, colonialism, and death inflect the ways we wander through digital spaces. Overlapping and intersecting, each provides a multifaceted lens through which to understand what wandering does, lacks, implies, and offers. Kagen's account will attune game designers, players, and scholars to the myriad possibilities of the wandering ludic body.
“This landmark study explains the roots and implications of computer games that move beyond combat and simple agon. With revealing insights into narratology, art, and intellectual history, Kagen opens promising new paths for technological humanism.”
Stuart Moulthrop, Distinguished Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
“In energetic and articulate prose, Kagen applies spatial and cultural studies to investigate discourses on death, work, colonialism and gender in the exploratory, nonviolent and playful landscapes of wandering games.”
Dr. Eben Muse, Bangor University. Co-Editor of Creating Second Lives
“Beautifully conceived and written, Wandering Games maps the many ways we measure ourselves against the worlds of games. Kagen brings to life the pleasures and subversive potential of traveling without a destination.”
Alenda Y. Chang, Associate Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara; author of Playing Nature: Ecology in Video Games and co-editor of Media+Environment
The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding and support from MIT Press Direct to Open