Animals, Video Games, and Humanity

Tom Tyler

A playful reflection on animals and video games, and what each can teach us about the other

224 Pages, 5 x 8 in

  • Paperback
  • 9781517910198
  • Published: May 31, 2022
  • eBook
  • 9781452964614
  • Published: May 31, 2022



Animals, Video Games, and Humanity

Tom Tyler

ISBN: 9781517910198

Publication date: May 31st, 2022

224 Pages

25 b&w illustrations

8 x 5

"With his characteristic combination of wit and erudition, Tom Tyler explores the powers of virtualization that stretch from the OED and the literary canon to video games both old and new. As he demonstrates, the power of reading closely, watching keenly, and listening carefully is an invitation to play otherwise, to push back against the force of the generic, whose foremost example might well be what we call, dumbly, ‘the animal.’"—Cary Wolfe, author of What is Posthumanism? and founding director, 3CT: Center for Critical and Cultural Theory, Rice University

"Ducks, dogs, sheep, and squid—not to mention dung beetles. These and many more creatures roam through Tom Tyler's lively ruminations on the nature of animals in video games. With its delightful zigzags through etymology, folklore, literature, and history, Tyler shows how thinking about video games by considering the animals within defamiliarizes videogames, recenters the nonhuman, and revitalizes our sense of our own humanness."—Mark Sample, Davidson College

"A brisk, insightful, and accessible study of the myriad relationships between animals and games . . . Tyler’s Game is a thoughtful reflection on what it means to be human in a hypermediated world on the verge of breakdown, with an eye toward a more ethical multispecies future to come. "—Ancillary Review of Books


"A delightful and quirky stroll through everything from game design to primatology and Shakespearean tragedy to the sitcom Frasier."—Animal Studies Journal


"In an era of egregious mistreatment and collective willed ignorance about animals and their lives, Game knowingly offers innocent fun with its roster of virtual beasts, alongside an unapologetic investment in the welfare of real animals."—Gamers with Glasses


"The book is explicitly designed as a Trojan horse that might appear to be a playful series of essays about the role of animals in video games, but actually poses deep-rooted philosophical questions about what it means to be human."—New Formations


"Tyler is clearly having fun with his work—in his crafty wordplay, in his deep engagement in the mechanisms and movements and scenes of games."—ISLE


"The unpretentious writing style, the varied selection of theory and games,  the entertaining structure, and the many telling puns allow the reader to gain insights even without previous specialist knowledge. 


With Game, Tyler presents a hybrid book that is neither fish nor fowl, but rather consists of all kinds of different species of texts."—Press Start


"Game, by Tom Tyler, is a collection of twelve interesting and engaging essays on the nature of humanity, animality, and play."—H-Net Reviews


"Game has an enormous sweep: Tyler’s erudition supports and adds gravitas to his playful style and subject matter. If you’d enjoy massively evocative, wide-ranging occasions for thought about “animals, video games, and humanity,” here you go."—Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism


"The book brings to bear Tyler’s broad knowledge of how animals have figured in language and culture through centuries of coexistence with people, while also assessing the new representational possibilities for animals posed by video games. "—Afterimage


"The reader is drawn into Tyler's witty style and gradually exposed to the difficulties of encountering animals in both games and real life."—Ecozon@


"Through meticulous and erudite close readings, Tyler effectively demonstrates how various media and fields of study have shaped animal representations in video games. At the same time, these examples, when situated alongside video games, allow Tyler to demonstrate how games perpetuate and challenge what we already know, or think we know, about animals."—Ecocene


"Game demonstrates resplendently how video games about animals offer opportunities for education and reflection about human-animal encounters—teachable moments—but also threaten to magnify prejudices and disinformation. Tyler’s writing marvelously extrapolates, from the video screens into the world, the conditions, cultural constructions, and fates of other animals."—Journal of Animal Ethics


"Tyler's book Game is an exceptional work suitable for both novices and experts alike who seek to broaden their understanding about questions and creatures, be they large or small."—Electronic Book Review


"Every chapter is beautifully and wittily written, interweaving original insights and surprises. The result is a timely and much needed book that helps us rethink our relationship with other animals and virtual worlds."—Configurations


"Game is a captivating, charming, and deeply insightful exploration of the place of animals in our games, our minds, and our worlds."—Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy


"[Game] provides us with highly astute cultural observations and significant pathways for further thought, functions to prove the overarching message of the book: that games can be, and are, good to think with and that such playful thinking can be an important way to rethink our relation to the world and the nonhuman animals with whom we share it."—Journal for Critical Animal Studies


"I have identified my perfect dinner guest. Tom Tyler knows games, culture, critical theory, and animals. He is a great storyteller. I would already know what not to serve."—Hanna Wirman, Game Studies


"Refreshingly draw[s] on (and draws us toward) an ethical praxis in the form of a conjunction of post-structuralism and veganism. "—American Journal of Play


A playful reflection on animals and video games, and what each can teach us about the other

Video games conjure new worlds for those who play them, human or otherwise: they’ve been played by cats, orangutans, pigs, and penguins, and they let gamers experience life from the perspective of a pet dog, a predator or a prey animal, or even a pathogen. In Game, author Tom Tyler provides the first sustained consideration of video games and animals and demonstrates how thinking about animals and games together can prompt fresh thinking about both.

Game comprises thirteen short essays, each of which examines a particular video game, franchise, aspect of gameplay, or production in which animals are featured, allowing us to reflect on conventional understandings of humans, animals, and the relationships between them. Tyler contemplates the significance of animals who insert themselves into video games, as protagonists, opponents, and brute resources, but also as ciphers, subjects, and subversive guides to new ways of thinking. These animals encourage us to reconsider how we understand games, contesting established ideas about winning and losing, difficulty settings, accessibility, playing badly, virtuality, vitality and vulnerability, and much more.

Written in a playful style, Game draws from a dizzying array of sources, from children’s television, sitcoms, and regional newspapers to medieval fables, Shakespearean tragedy, and Edwardian comedy; from primatology, entomology, and hunting and fishing manuals to theological tracts and philosophical treatises. By examining video games through the lens of animals and animality, Tyler leads us to a greater humility regarding the nature and status of the human creature, and a greater sensitivity in dealings with other animals.

Tom Tyler is lecturer in digital culture at the University of Leeds. He is editor of Animal Beings, coeditor of Animal Encounters, and author of CIFERAE: A Bestiary in Five Fingers (Minnesota, 2012).


1. Game

2. A Singular of Boars

3. How Does Your Dog Smell?

4. Enumerating Ruminants

5. An Inkling

6. Playing Like a Loser

7. A Thing Worth Doing

8. Cows, Clicks, Ciphers, and Satire

9. Meanings of Meat

10. Total BS!

11. Misanthropy without Humanity

12. Difficulties

13. Trojan Horses




Publication History