Die Spielwelt muss romantisiert werden! – Zur Rezeption europäischer Romantik in Walking Simulator-Games

  • Katja Aller Cologne Game Lab (TH Köln) / University of Cologne


This essay specifies how a sub-genre of the digital adventure game – the so-called walking simulator – reproduces and reflects ideas, motifs, and (narrative) structures of European Romanticism. The goal here is to draw attention to the genre’s potential for the academic discussion, analysis, and teaching of Romantic theories and patterns. To achieve this, I provide an introductory overview on the history of the walking simulator with emphasis on the early experimental games Explorer, The Forest, and LSD: Dream Emulator. An analysis of Dear Ether’s landscape design and narrative structure serves as access point into the discussion of how the Romantic ideas of 1. the sublime, 2. the silent poetry of nature, and 3. The Freudian Uncanny as well as the storytelling techniques of 1. synesthesia, 2. (reflective and meditative) walking, 3. fragmented narratives, and 4. (romantic) self-referentiality have been used in different walking simulators (such as Proteus, What Remains of Edith Finch, Gone Home, and The Beginners Guide) to tell (spatial) stories about emotions, identity, individuality. Walking simulators subvert traditional expectations towards digital games and, through their use of Romantic storytelling techniques, have changed the discourse about digital games as not only entertainment but a form of art.

Special Issue: Die Frage nach dem Wahren, Guten und Schönen in virtuellen Räumen