Green Reading, Green Gaming: The Future of Ecocriticsm, Storytelling, and Environmental Ethics in Virtual Worlds

Matthew Kaplan


The aim of this essay is to point to a forward thrust in the acceptance of new technologies--in particular, virtual game worlds such as those found in MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games)--in the discipline of ecocriticism. Moreover, I will illustrate how evolving concepts of the utility of virtual environments can assist ecocritics in branching out both their analyses and dialog with the public. In particular, I will point to how a study of virtual environments as embodying narratives of environmental ethics bridges important gaps in present cultural studies.

This is not an essay written primarily for ecocritics, although a basic familiarity with the past aims of literary ecocriticism may aid the reader in acknowledging the importance of technological scholarship. Nor is the subject matter at hand primarily the domain of game theorists: If nothing else, I hope to show that our evolving game worlds and "second lives" offer vital spaces for expanding the stories told between academic, designer, and player with regard to our natural world. By the end of the day, we must positively change the way people interact with their environments. And to that end, we must change the way we play and think while playing.