Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Eckstein, Barbara

First Committee Member

Hendrix, Steve

Second Committee Member

Kanouse, Sarah

Third Committee Member

Priest, Tyler

Fourth Committee Member

Tate, Eric

Fifth Committee Member

Voyce, Stephen


This dissertation explores the use of play in three ecoaesthetic games and considers their potential for affecting environmental thought. Ecoaesthetic games leverage the power of play as a “foot in the door” for divisive topics. Play, as structured through games, is found to be a powerful generator of meaning. Games specifically are found to be representational, affective, and relational systems that can facilitate critical thinking, sustained reflection, and thoughtful deliberation around intractable problems. My games Tether, recollect, and Fringe-assay modify the well-known games Scrabble, Memory, and Snakes and Ladders, respectively, in order to bring attention to three different but intertwining, environmental crises: language and species endangerment, species extinction, and growing human vulnerability in a climate changed world. In this study, I consider human cognitive tendencies that inhibit our desire to engage with and take action within complex politico-ecological problems. Then, I locate promising game features that can be modified in order to work against such tendencies. The dissertation closes with a consideration of the iterative design process and the insights I gained from each of the games designed for this study.


Art Games, Arts as Research, Ecoaesthetic Games, Environmental Art Games, Environmental Thought, Thinking through Practice


xi, 195 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 181-195).


This thesis has been optimized for improved web viewing. If you require the original version, contact the University Archives at the University of Iowa:


Copyright © 2018 Erica Lynn Damman