Playing the posts: post-Anthropocene, posthuman, postapocalypse
Special issue editors:
Lawrence May (University of Auckland)
Poppy Wilde (Birmingham City University)
The Journal of Games Criticism invites submissions for a special issue exploring the relationships between the post-Anthropocene, posthumanism and the postapocalypse in videogames and their attendant play cultures. Today we create and play videogames in the ruins of our own planet, as our contemporary era comes to be defined by inexorable ecological crises and collapse. Our conditions of Earthly disaster see climate in disarray, industrial pollution sinking deeper into our life-sustaining environments, ecosystems fracturing, and species (including our own) moving ever-closer to extinction. Attention is increasingly turning from discussions centred on lives lived during the ‘Anthropocene’ – a widely adopted (but not uncontested) critical term describing a current geological epoch defined by the ruinous impact of humankind on the planet – to what must follow, or the post-Anthropocene (see, for various discussions, the Critical Climate Change book series edited by Cohen and Colebrook, 2011–present).
Building upon the Anthropocene’s urgent warnings about the fate of ecosystems, cultures and societies, the post-Anthropocene asks us to transcend the human-centric paradigms that have led to our environmental crises and instead envision new, often bold, futures (which may be framed in hopeful, pessimistic, idealised or simply pragmatic terms). Critical to exploring the post-Anthropocene, and embracing its imperative to undertake “speculative practices aimed at imagining a future beyond catastrophe and extinction” (Adsit-Morris and Gough 2020), is the recognition that nonhuman entities are deeply embedded within human systems, and permeate biology, sociality and meaning. In recognising the entanglement and interdependency of humans and nonhuman entities in shaping the world, scholars are often drawn to another ‘post’: posthumanism, and the challenges this concept makes to the traditional boundaries and exceptionalism of human identity. Critical posthumanism views humans as intrinsically intertwined with other elements such as technologies, environments, and materialities. This perspective challenges anthropocentrism and emphasises a complex understanding of humans’ place in the world. A third ‘post’ is also evoked by the post-Anthropocene: the post-apocalypse. Post-apocalyptic depictions of worlds or societies in the aftermath of catastrophic events substantiate the notional consequences of environmental, technological, or societal collapses. Such accounts of cataclysm offer critical reflections on contemporary Earthly ailments and often provide imaginative, affectively rich spaces for exploring the consequences and potential futures (whether marked by renewal or grinding terror) resulting from environmental crises.
This collection will illustrate the entanglement of posthumanist perspectives, visions of the post-apocalypse, and the post-Anthropocene within videogames, and their combined capacity to provoke us to reimagine our social, economic, ecological and political conditions.
In the field of game studies, there has been growing interest in understanding how videogames and their players engage with and respond to our era’s urgent ecological and ethical concerns, and Ruffino (2018) states that “[p]osthuman games are companions for earthly survival”. We seek in this collection to look beyond the present catastrophe to the futures offered through play. As Fordyce (2021) argues, the “problem with the present moment is that not only suffuses material politics but has also infected our imagination of the future”, but that games offer powerful opportunities for experimentation that critique and think beyond our contemporary conditions. This special issue invites scholars to explore the complexities and implications of the post-Anthropocene in order to expand our understanding of how digital games can engage with and respond to the challenges of the present moment, and the anxieties and opportunities presented by our uncertain futures. We encourage submissions that engage with a range of topics related to videogames, player experiences, play cultures and game design, including but not limited to:
- speculative, fantastic, dystopian and/or utopian responses to climate crisis
- ecocriticism, ecological awareness, deep ecology and/or ecosophy
- the non- and posthuman other (animals, plants, monsters, aliens, artificial intelligence) in games
- interrogations of humanity’s relationship with other lifeforms and entities
- post- and transhumanist frameworks, posthumanist ethics
- post-anthropocentric explorations of indigenous worldviews
- post-anthropocentric spaces and temporalities
- the role of players in negotiating and co-creating post-anthropocentric experiences or gameworlds
- the aesthetics, storytelling and sensibilities of post-apocalyptic worlds
- conceptualising the ‘end’ of ‘worlds’ and/or the renewal/creation of new ‘worlds’
- the relationship between post-Anthropocene/apocalypse/humanism and player agency
- the materiality of videogames and their entanglement with/impact upon Earthly geologies, ecosystems and biospheric conditions
Abstracts of 300 words (excluding references) plus short bio (no more than 100 words) are due 25 September 2023 and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
All submitted abstracts will be initially reviewed by the special issue editors to ensure relevance to the theme. Authors of selected abstracts will be invited to submit full papers, which will then undergo a peer-review process in accordance with the journal’s standard review procedures.
The deadline for full paper submissions (6-8,000 words) is Monday 29 January 2024.
Please note: by submitting an abstract for this Special Issue you may also be asked to conduct peer review for an article within it (even if you are also accepted). If you would not like to be asked to conduct peer review, please indicate this in your email.
Expected publication is October 2024.
The Journal of Games Criticism is a non-profit, peer-reviewed, open-access journal. Full paper submissions will be expected to conform to the submission guidelines.
Adsit-Morris, C., & Gough, N. (2020). Post-Anthropocene imaginings: Speculative thought, diffractive play and Women on the Edge of Time. In M. K. E. T. Thomas & R. Bellingham (eds.), Post-Qualitative Research and Innovative Methodologies (pp. 172–186). Bloomsbury Academic.
Cohen, T. and Colebrook, C. (eds.) (2011-) Critical Climate Change book series. Open Humanities Press. http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/series/critical-climate-change
Fordyce, R. (2021). Play, History and Politics: Conceiving Futures Beyond Empire. Games and Culture, 16(3), 294–304. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412020962430
Ruffino, P. (2018) ‘Posthuman Gaming: Video Games for the Post-Anthropocene’. In Post Start-Up Cultures, 20–21 December 2018, University of Naples, Italy (online), https://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/id/eprint/34618/