Call for Proposals - Edited Collection - Virtual Wildernesses: Ecocritical Explorations of Wildness in Gameworlds (12/18/12)

full name / name of organization: 
Ben S. Bunting, Jr. / Washington State University
contact email: 

Virtual Wildernesses: Ecocritical Explorations of Wildness in Gameworlds

Despite the rapid increase in the popularity of gaming in the last decade, there has been little ecocritical consideration of how virtual worlds fit into the ecosystem that supports our increasingly hybridized experience of reality. Thus, the intent of this collection is to (re)consider the virtual spaces of gameworlds as a new kind of wilderness and players as a new kind of explorer.

In his essay "The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature," William Cronon makes a distinction between our traditional understanding of wilderness as a geographically-defined place imbued with the qualities of "the natural" and wildness, an experiential quality often associated with wilderness that nonetheless "can be found anywhere: in the seemingly tame fields and woodlots of Massachusetts, in the cracks of a Manhattan sidewalk, even in the cells of our own bodies." Cronon's argument suggests the possibility of a more inclusive understanding of wilderness, one that challenges an oft-assumed but reductive civilization/wilderness dichotomy by considering a broad range of experientially wild spaces located outside of "nature" as it is traditionally understood, spaces within which alternative wildernesses can be mapped by a new breed of latter-day explorers.

Computer-generated gameworlds function as one such space. The physical/virtual hybrid worlds that players of video games, mobile games, and alternative-reality games inhabit during gameplay can serve as "virtual wildernesses" of a sort and, increasingly, creators of gameworlds are attempting to intentionally generate such wild spaces within their games as a selling point for potential players. More and more console- and PC-based games are adopting "open-world" and "sandbox" elements, while the rise in popularity of mobile, tablet, and handheld games – many of which utilize GPS technology – provide a myriad of ways for players to meld the physical world with virtual ones through gameplay, making the experiential remapping of "real," already-known physical places a necessary part of the game.

Varied responses to this CFP are welcome, including but not limited to: theoretical discussions of the idea of "virtual wilderness"; ecocritical "close readings" of particular games/gameworlds; nonfiction "travel narratives" dealing with author's (or others') explorations of particular gameworlds; investigations of how virtual wildernesses are constructed from the developer's perspective, and discussions of how gamers reshape gameworlds as virtual wildernesses after a game's official release (through online communities and forums, cooperative play, modding, etc.).

Please submit a CV, an abstract of no more than 500 words, and contact information to Ben Bunting at by Tuesday, December 18th. Feel free to contact the editor with any questions you might have about the CFP.