Game On – Ethnobiology through Video Games

Super Mario Bros (1985) power-up, CC labeled for reuse.

By Chlöe Fackler

The discipline of ethnobiology, as it pertains to the relationships held between people, their environments, and the biota within, has ties to a wide variety of media, both modern and traditional, including music, art, textiles, and film, among many others. However, ethnobiology through video games is perhaps a lesser known outlet through which to explore the field. As video games have increased in complexity, accessibility, and gained a greater breadth of narrative, ethnobiological themes have become more apparent in recent years.

Cotton Complexities in South India

A cotton worker and her son rest in between packing cotton into a gin on the outskirts of Warangal, Telangana.

By Andrew Flachs, Assistant Professor of Anthropology (Purdue University)

As more than 1 billion people around the world gather to celebrate Diwali, cotton is nearly ready to pick in Telangana, India. A few years ago, Telangana cotton farmer Shiva and I travelled to the city to buy name-brand cottonseeds from a shop with a reputation for selling high-quality agricultural inputs like seeds and pesticides. The seeds Shiva sowed in June brought forth a terrific harvest that year, withstanding pest attacks, and redoubling investments in pesticide sprays, fertilizers, labor, and plowing. Ripe bolls, having withstood the vagaries of an increasingly unpredictable monsoon and new insect pest cycles, bring the promise of fireworks, new clothes, presents, and parties when sold in time for the late autumn festivities. Farmers like Shiva can breathe sighs of relief, content that, this year, their gambles have paid off.