The Haunting of Ancient Societies in the Mass Effect Trilogy and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild


I examine the prevalent construction of the long-lost yet technologically more highly-advanced society in the Mass Effect trilogy and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. First, I situate this construction within its long history, which finds a common touchstone in the myth of Atlantis. Through the lens of Jacques Derrida’s hauntology, I consider how this construction is used in these two popular and prevalent yet different examples to evoke nostalgia for their own fictional pasts. I analyse the ways in which the ghosts of these gameworlds haunt the player in the present, through modalities of threat, nostalgia, lost futures and destiny. These manifest on various levels of the game: the gameworlds’ fictional pasts (often overlapping with what would popularly be called a game’s “lore”); digital materiality; and the games’ spatial environments and the traversal of them. The examples differ in how and why the player interfaces with the gameworlds’ ghosts on each layer, opening up some of the potential strategies for this game-internal nostalgia and haunting, while not being exhaustive.

Game Studies