Ecofeminism and Gaia Theory in Horizon Zero Dawn

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The 2017 video game Horizon Zero Dawn represents a unique version of post-apocalypse, one thousand years after a planet-wide environmental collapse caused by out-of-control technologies. The game’s protagonist, Aloy, must fight increasingly aggressive machines made in the image of earth’s megafauna as well as the narrow-minded societies of the new earth. Her quest is both a journey of personal discovery and for the betterment of her community, and coupled with her role as a female video game protagonist—which are few and far between—she represents both gender progress and ecological thinking, making her, I argue, an ecofeminist protagonist. Game reviewers, players, and critics have also praised Horizon Zero Dawn for its beautiful graphics, which depict the American West and Southwest. Significantly for an environmental reading, the plot involves scientists creating an AI to terraform Earth’s destroyed environments: the AI is named GAIA, invoking James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory, and thus the game pits nature against technology at the same time that it figures the two as deeply intertwined and presents players with another female figure to consider in relation to ecological themes. This video essay discusses whether Horizon Zero Dawn depicts the world as it “should” be in terms of either gender or ecology, according to ecofeminist theories, and whether Aloy represents an intersectional character according to theorists Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge. If so, this game could be interpreted as activist in more than just a feminist way. The game’s message of maintaining hope through personal and cultural hardship through strategies both violence-based and based in ethics of care—for others regardless of ethnicity, for the environment—is much-needed in these precarious political times.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalTrace: A Journal of Writing, Media, and Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Video games
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Ecofeminism


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