There's No Place Like Home: Dwelling and Being at Home in Digital Games

In Espen Aarseth & Stephan Günzel (eds.), Ludotopia: Spaces, Places, and Territories in Computer Games. Transcript Verlag, Roswitha Gost, Sigrid Nokel U. Dr. Karin Werner. pp. 141-166 (2019)
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Abstract

This chapter considers the presence, in digital games, of experiences of dwelling. Starting with an engagement with the philosopher Edward S. Casey's distinction between hestial and hermetic spatial modes, the chapter argues that the player's spatial engagement with digital game worlds has tended to align with the hermetic pole, emphasizing movement, traversal and exploration. By contrast, hestial spatial practices, characterized by centrality, lingering and return, are far less prevalent both in digital games themselves and in discussions on spatiality in the game studies discourse. To counter this lack, this chapter draws upon philosophical work on space by Casey, Martin Heidegger, Yi-Fu Tuan and Christian Norberg-Schulz, using these as a conceptual lens to identify spatial structures and practices in digital games that diverge from the hermetic mode. Attention is paid to games that invite pausing and lingering in place, games where the player's relation to place is structured around practices of building, the phenomenology of home and dwelling in games, and familiarity and identity as experiential characteristics of being at home. Minecraft and Animal Crossing: New Leaf are examined in detail as case studies, though the chapter also refers to examples from other games.

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Daniel Vella
University of Malta

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