From Walking Simulator to Ambience Action Game

A Philosophical Approach to a Misunderstood Genre

  • Felix Zimmermann a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne / University of Cologne, Germany
  • Christian Huberts Freelancer / waza! Games / University of Applied Sciences Europe, Berlin, Germany


When Dear Esther (The Chinese Room, 2012) was released in 2012 as a standalone game, the new “walking simulator” genre name came into popular use. The term implies a banalization of game design while also missing the core characteristics of the games subsumed under it and, therefore, lacks epistemological value. Following this notion, we offer “ambience action game” as an alternative to provide an epistemological tool which enables researchers to appreciate the genre’s cultural significance as a continuation of practices of atmospheric experience.

The proposed term offers myriad starting points for analysis and future research by unifying well-received game studies theories with the barely recognized—at least in game studies discourse—philosophical theory of atmospheres. Consequently, this article is a contribution to an affective turn in game studies, which takes player experience beyond the act of play seriously

August 26, 2019