Vickie Monthong is a PhD candidate at Freie Universität Berlin. Her doctoral project, titled The Posthuman Game/r and Affective Gaming, explores posthuman narratives in video games and the relationship between affective game designs and player identification. Her research interests widely cover posthuman ethics, video games studies, ecological studies, East West comparative studies, and eastern aesthetics and philosophy (Taoism). E-mail: vickiem96@zedat.fu-berlin.de


Posthumanism and Cross-species Alliances in the Thai Video Game Timelie

Abstract: Stressing an evolving-with ethics among species and an interconnected biosphere (Braidotti, 2013; Haraway, 2016), critical posthumanism has worked as a solid foundation for a non-anthropocentric worlding parameter. Such ethos is discovered in literature and cultural products that explore the biological likenesses and empathetic kinship between human and nonhuman animals (Magnone, 2016; Lindgren & Öhman, 2018). Timelie (2020) by Urnique Studio, for example, is a puzzle adventure game that demonstrates the interspecies companionship of a female protagonist and her feline companion. In this Thailand-based production, players are required to solve puzzles by coordinating the movement of both human and nonhuman characters under a time-manipulating mechanism. The gameplay design of the playable duo and the theme of cross-species alliances present the human-animal relation as interdependent assemblages, which align closely with the idea of the transversal subject “we,” as a critical response to the ecological crisis of the Anthropocene (Braidotti, 2019). Although choosing a domestic pet over other animals as one of the player characters might harbor suspicions of species hierarchy, the rising popularity of nonhuman animal game characters in a wider perspective shows the keen interest of players to experience the world through the eyes of nonhuman animals. Video games, which have been recognized for their empathetic and emotional impacts (Jones et al., 2014; Isbister, 2016), provide the creative space to reinvent or reinterpret the relationship between humans and animals through narrative modes and ludological means. Hence, by analyzing the gameplay design of Timelie and examples drawn from the genre, this paper investigates whether nonhuman animal games show affordances to perspective-changing experiences that encourage cross-species dialogues, and thereby foster players’ empathy towards our earthly neighbors.
Keywords: nonhuman animal, video games, representation, empathy, becoming-animal, Thailand