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Ecology Review – Elden Ring

When making art, humans pull from what they know, reaching into what they have studied and experienced. When these experiences are always fleeting, what comes out?

I think a lot of games lack in how they represent the natural world (among other things), possibly because making landscapes is a requirement and not a passion for making certain genres. An Ecology Review is my attempt to make sense of a game’s relationship with Earth through an eco-critical lense1 as they meet this challenge, examining the presented mechanics and symbols pulled from the ethereal stuffing of a roomful of nerds. For example, my humble debut the Halo: Infinite review, developed simply into sections from a thesis of scope and fidelity failing to come up to anything natural or novel, going topic by topic on how it failed to match real landscapes.

I like to keep an unreasonably high standard for this exercise, but as you could have guessed, today’s topic is Elden Ring, which has proven more difficult to talk about cohesively. Its merits go a lot further (as my hours clocked on Steam or online theories may illustrate) and I had to let go of a lot to write this review, which in reality warrants a small novel.

Would I like to talk about every knoll and forb in this digital epic? Yeah – and I think the fans and broader society would thank me and praise me for it – but I’ve landed on the main takeaways, hoping to impart the the nourishment and critique and things in-between that can be drawn from this mighty and curious game. Without further ado, we can begin with the main theme.

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Growth and Regrowth (2-Year Dev Retro)

Two years ago I started making a videogame.

Before starting my 7th semester of college, I prepared to talk with my professor about a free-form project for CIS 690 – a tech elective where you pitch, perform, and reflect on whatever you want. It was about 1 hour before I walked out of my neighboring apartment onto the campus to talk with him that I deemed the moment salient to choose what the subject of my project would be. I had some ideas written down, picked one for a few good reasons, and continue to this day working on that project at a healthy and generous pace.

The game – now called Disharmony – has changed a lot since then, as I would imagine most do from inception to production. But through planning, prototyping, reading, painting, playing, thinking, and doing nothing at all, it has taken on a different meaning entirely while retaining the shape I thought of on that day. It’s these forces of change and holding onto the central shape that I want to talk about, even only partway through this journey, since the act of finding what’s worth keeping in an oddly-growing game is the never-ending challenge of the craft.

(featured painting is Premonition by Remedios Varo)