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tag --> Chapter on Animal Avatars in Video Games - Website of Michael Fuchs | University of Graz | American Studies | Film Studies | Game Studies | Television Studies | Media Studies

American Studies
Film Studies
Television Studies
Media Studies
Game Studies

19 Jul

Chapter on Animal Avatars in Video Games

Written by Michael Fuchs
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Playing (with) the Nonhuman: Video Games and Animal Avatars

Jonathan Boulter opens his recent book Parables of the Posthuman (2015) with a key question, "In what ways does gaming alter our perception of the human subject?" Video games, Boulter suggests, make a promise to players—the promise of becoming more-than-human. Indeed, video games featuring animal avatars may open up spaces of animal becoming, thus altering our very conception of the human condition. For example, the free video game I, Predator! (2011) promises players that they will "[b]ecome one of nature's real life [sic] predators." Similarly, Bear Simulator (2016) seeks to allow players to experience "life through the eyes of a bear." In fact, after a few minutes of playing time, an achievement pops up—"be a bear," a phrase which clearly suggests a kind of becoming.

In my contribution to this collection, I will discuss three video games—I, Predator!, Bear Simulator, and Deadly Creatures (2009)—and explore the interconnections between the human players and the animal avatars these games produce. By combining Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's notion of becoming-animal with phenomenological approaches to video game avatars and object-oriented ontology, I will suggest that these video games simultaneously expand and collapse the limits of the human body, allowing players to playfully explore the fusion of the human and nonhuman. As I will argue, although an extremely flawed video game, from a human–animal studies perspective, Bear Simulator is the most promising of the games, as it rejects the fetishization of objective orientation and telos obsession typical of video games and instead focuses on exploring and nurturing the relationship between the human player and the animal avatar.