A semiotic exploration of catastrophes in game worlds

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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to overview the presence of catastrophes in game worlds and, in particular, to investigate what they can tell us about real catastrophes. To this end, we present a semiotic typol-ogy of catastrophes, confronting them with epistrophes and apostrophes and further articulating them relative and absolute cessation events. Then we highlight the long-standing relationship between playfulness and disasters in literature, cinema and video games underlining how the suppos-edly opposite characteristics of the two are, in fact, a very productive cultural trope. To conclude, we look into some examples of catastrophes in game worlds, both relative (such as the “corrupted blood incident” in World of Warcraft) and absolute (the end of the worlds in StarWars Galaxies and Matrix Online).

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