Special Issue on Walking Simulators

August 6, 2018

Call for Papers: Special Issue On “Walking Simulators”

The Walking Simulator – or the idea of it – has received much critical attention in recent years (e.g. Campbell, 2016; Mason, 2016; Clark, 2017; Gohardani, 2017; Gerardi, 2017; Kill Screen Staff, 2017). High profile titles like Gone Home (2015), Virginia (2016), Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (2015) Dear Esther (2012), What Remains of Edith Finch? (2017), Firewatch (2016), and Oxenfree (2016) tend to attract much attention, and have offered queer takes and nuanced, emotive explorations of sexuality and relationships, family dynamics, personal and collective trauma. While video games in general had previously been read in concert with the concept of the flâneur (Bogost, 2005), Walking Simulators more specifically have been explored for the ways they appear to adapt the older literary and philosophical practices and traditions of ‘walking’ or wandering through space (Carbo-Mascarell, 2016).

While often dismissed as ‘not games’, or used as provocative examples when arguing that video games are better ‘without stories’ (Bogost, 2017), examining Walking Simulators as a phenomenon with a complex history may allow us to examine the hierarchical approaches of game studies, as well as the hierarchies of gaming culture; along gender lines (Kagen, 2017) or otherwise (Kain, 2016). 

This special issue seeks to generate conversation and debate across disciplinary boundaries and scholarly approaches on the meaning and significance of the Walking Simulator. While not intended to create a canon of acceptable titles, contributors are invited to view the issues as a space for reflection and discussion on their place in the industry and popular culture. 

How do Walking Simulators invite players to interact with them, and how can (or can’t) the player move through their spaces? Can we conceive of Walking Simulators as their own genre? What would be the benefits or issues of doing so? Can we talk of playing other video games as Walking Simulators, queering their texts against intended generic constraints or modes of play? Are Walking Simulators anti-players because of the lack of actions and satisfaction, or are they deliberately challenging this kind of ‘play’? What is their relationship to art, literature, and other media?

Approaches are welcomed from scholars and developers alike, tackling Walking Simulators from a variety of approaches. Broad themes to be addressed may include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Definitions and explorations
  • Critical reviews of individual titles
  • Storytelling in Walking Simulators
  • Queer approaches to making/studying
  • Promotion and Marketing  
  • Games criticism, gate-keeping, and boundary breaking
  • Representations of space, place and/or material culture
  • Representations of history in Walking Simulators
  • Player reception
  • Practice-based approaches to game-making
  • Platforms and technology 

Abstracts (max. 250 words) and brief author bios should be received by 17th September 2018. Authors will be notified ASAP after this closing date, with full papers (3000-6000 words) to be expected by 19th November 2018. 

Articles in Press Start are normally expected to be 3000-5000 words in length but, for this special issue, longer papers will be considered. It is expected that the special issue will be published in late 2018/early 2019. Informal enquiries may be directed to Esther Wright (E.Wright.2@warwick.ac.uk) and Emily Marlow (e.marlow@sheffield.ac.uk), or feel free to join our friendly Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/PressStartJournal/ and post your question there.

Works Cited:

Bogost, I. (2005). Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism. Cambridge,

MA, The MIT Press.

--------- (2017). “Video Games are Better Without Stories”. The Atlantic.  


Campbell, C. (2016). ‘The problem with “walking sims”’. Polygon.



Carbo-Mascarell, R. (2016). ‘Walking Simulators: The Digitisation of an Aesthetic

Practice’ in Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG 2016.

Clark, N. (2017). ‘A brief history of the “walking simulator,” gaming’s most detested

genre’. Salon. [https://www.salon.com/2017/11/11/a-brief-history-of-the-


Gerardi, M. (2017). ‘Surely there’s a better name for games like Gone Home than “walking

simulator”’. The AV Club. [https://games.avclub.com/surely-there-s-a-better-


Gohardani, D. (2017). ‘What Makes a Video Game? The Case of Walking

Simulators.’ OnlySP. [http://onlysp.com/walking-simulators-op-ed/].

Kagan, M. (2017). ‘Walking Simulators, #GamerGate, and the Gender of

Wandering’, in The Year's Work in Nerds, Wonks, and Neocons, eds.,

Jonathan Paul Eburne and Benjamin Schreier. Bloomington, Indiana

University Press.

Kain, E. (2016). ‘On Walking Simulators, Game Journalism And The Culture Wars’. Forbes.



Kill Screen Staff. (2017). ‘Is It Time To Stop Using the Term “Walking Simulator”?’. Kill

Screen. phttps://killscreen.com/articles/time-stop-using-term-walking-simulator/]

Mason, G. (2016). ‘The origins of the walking simulator.’ Eurogamer.