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Gamer's Guide to Ecology

Gamer's Guide to Ecology

By Jessie deHaan
I play popular open-world RPGs from an ecological perspective. On “Gamer’s Guide to Ecology” I dive into topics like plant and animal interactions, animal behaviour, evolution, and the impacts of the game's characters on in-game biodiversity. Art by Lara LeBlanc, Music by Bret Eagleston (
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Ep.20 - Just Chatting: Pokemon Legends Arceus
In the final episode of Season 1 I'm joined by photographer, podcaster and D&D 5e actual play streamer Josh Bingaman (@josketh on Twitter). Josh and I nerd out about what it was like to grow up playing Pokemon, what keeps us coming back (time and time again) to the games, what we think of the newest game "Pokemon Legends: Arceus" and what it could mean for the franchise moving forward.  Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc, theme music by Bret Eagleston (
March 01, 2022
Ep.19 - Ecology, Evolution and Pokemon Legends: Arceus
I have been a fan of Pokemon for 20 years, and this game is a dream come true. Come have a listen and learn about ecological topics like phenotypic variation, relative abundance, metamorphosis and symbiosis! I had so much fun playing this game, and I hope you will too! Pokemon is a great game to learn about ecology. Go catch 'em all! Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc, music by Bret Eagleston (
February 18, 2022
Ep.18 - Just Chatting about the Witcher Universe... and Butts
CW: Please be advised that this episode discusses plot points in the Witcher 3 that relate to suicide and violence against women, as well as characterization of LGBTQ2IA people and people with disabilities.  On today's show we discuss romance in videogames, the consequences of decision making in the Witcher 3, and our favourite monsters and dialogue moments. We also talk about why we love the show (Spoiler: It's not just the butts). You can find Matt @dj_stormageddon on twitter, and everywhere else. Seriously, check Google, he's like the top 6 results. Stay tuned until the end of the episode to hear an exclusive announcement from Matt on an upcoming project.
January 28, 2022
Ep. 17 - Monster Ecology in the Witcher 3
In this episode I chat about Geralt, Ecologist of Rivia, er... Witcher. Come learn about how real-life necrophages help maintain the nutrient cycle, why I think Insectoid monsters are incorrectly named, and hear the proof that some monsters in this game are highly eusocial. Music by Bret Eagleston (@breadeagles,, Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc.
January 14, 2022
Ep.16 - Just Chatting: Wandering Aimlessly in No Man's Sky
Special guest Adam Fortais (@AdamFortais) joins Andrew and I to discuss the overwhelming freedom to explore in No Man's Sky. We chat about similar open-galaxy games, and what we liked and disliked about them. We also meander into the topic of why we're hesitant to play online multiplayer games, and what people get out of playing simulator-type games. Fun fact, Adam says it's possible to launch your spaceship into space using a large enough rubber band!  Music by Bret Eagleston (@breadeagles,, Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc.
December 25, 2021
Ep.15 - Limitless Exploration in No Man's Sky
The most open of open-world games, explore the galaxy (and all life contained within) in No Man's Sky! Hear about weird combinations of features that creates super bizarre lifeforms of immense variety (quintillions!). Is it Pokemon in space, Minecraft in space, or a cartoon version of Space Engineers? That's up to you! Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc, theme music by Bret Eagleston (@breadeagles,
December 16, 2021
Ep.14 - Just Chatting: Storytelling and The Legend of Zelda
A really fun episode where Alex, Andrew and I chat story telling and the Legend of Zelda with special guest Pat Edwards. Author, podcaster and D&D 5e real play streamer Pat Edwards (@ThePatEdwards, tells us about his world building process and what makes Zelda such a successful franchise despite selling us the same story over and over. Why do we love the classic "hero's journey" type of story telling so much? Tune in to find out! *contains expletives*  Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc, theme music is called Rain Song by Bret Eagleston (
November 18, 2021
Ep.13 - Taking a Deep Breath of the Wild
In the first episode of my new two-part series format, I take a look at The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I've never played this game before, so it has been a fun time making this episode as I discover things along the way for the first time! Tune in this episode to hear my take on some cool game features like animal training, as well as some ecological concepts. Come learn about sapience vs sentience, sexual selection, obligate mutualism, survivorship curves, and edge effects.  Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc, theme music by Bret Eagleston (
November 12, 2021
Ep.12 - AMA about ecology in Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Origins
In the series wrap-up on Assassins' Creed Origins and Odyssey, I talk about population ecology, the Animus technology, and species distributions. Come learn about how our genes "remember" events through a process called methylation, and how individuals in a population distribute themselves in a local area. Music by Bret Eagleston,, Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc.
October 31, 2021
Ep.11 - Just Chatting Assassin's Creed and multi-species kinship
*contains expletives* A mega episode where Alex, Andrew and I rant about our favourite Assassin Creed games, features and quirks. For the first time we have a special guest star join us (thanks to my editing skills)! Today's episode features anthrozoologist @maythehan (41:00). We talk about dogs in games, movies and real life. Join us to hear about how Maythe's research on kinship with dogs teaches us about whiteness and racism, and how loving dogs has shaped the very concept of things like race and the animal.
October 23, 2021
Ep.10 - Humans first, nature second in Assassin's Creed Odyssey
Today's episode is all about the features, gameplay and disappointing state of animals in Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Don't get me wrong, I think it's an amazing RPG and installment in the AC Universe, it's just not my favourite. I talk about the one dimensional fish and plants, and the wonky dogs. Despite my grievances on the in-game ecology, I still love the Assassin's Creed story, mystery, and mythology of the game. 
October 12, 2021
Ep.9 - Animal A.I (and Alliteration) in Assassin's Creed Origins
This month I'm talking about one of my favourite game series of all time, Assassin's Creed. Today's episode is all about the animals found in Assassin's Creed Origins and their density and behaviour. I also talk about the pre-industrial effects of human activity on the natural environment. What I love most about Assassin's Creed is the amazing ability they give us to visit the great wonders of the world from the comfort of our couches.
October 05, 2021
Ep.8 – AMA about Subnautica and ecology
In the last episode in my series on Subnautica, I answer some listener questions about ecology and Subnautica. I talk more about xenobiology and xenotaxonomy, poke fun at taxonomists (sorry), and have fun theorizing about  gravity, water pressure and what might happen if you were to exit your Prawn Suit at a depth of 2500m on Earth. Music by Bret Eagleston,, Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc.
September 20, 2021
Ep.7 - Just Chatting about Subnautica
On today’s episode I sit down with my friends Andrew and James and chat Subnautica. We talk about what makes the game so scary for new players like James, why we might play video games that scare us, and Subnautica's general gameplay, theme and versatility in game styles. Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc, Theme music by Bret Eagleston (
September 13, 2021
Ep.6 - Alien lifeforms in Subnautica
In this week's short episode I talk about the potential selective pressures that led to specific adaptations in some of the alien lifeforms in Subnautica, and real-life mating strategies and animal mimicry.  Theme song by Bret Eagleston (, podcast art by Lara LeBlanc.
September 08, 2021
Ep.5 - Let’s name the zones, the zones of Subnautica
In the first episode of a new series, I dive into the topic of xenobiology by discussing life below the waves in Subnautica. I talk about the in-game biomes that are similar to real-life marine biomes, as well as animal density and ecological succession.  Art by Lara LeBlanc, theme song by Bret Eagleston (
September 01, 2021
Ep.4 – AMA about ecology in Red Dead Redemption 2
This is the last episode in our first series. Today, I answer some listener questions about ecology and how it's portrayed in Red Dead Redemption 2. I talk about carrying capacity, natural selection, adaptive radiation and the Banff Bison reintroduction effort ( I also used the word species a lot, and defined it using the word "species" (whoops). Don't @ me about the species definition debate. Music by Bret Eagleston,, Podcast art by Lara LeBlanc.
August 25, 2021
Ep.3 - Just Chatting about Red Dead Redemption 2
This episode contains expletives, and is suitable for mature audiences: On this week's episode I sit down with some friends to chat about Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay and how it measures up against other notable RPGs. We also talk about plot (NOTE: spoilers), what makes a compelling story, and becoming emotionally connected to a character. Art by Lara LeBlanc, Theme music by Bret Eagleston (
August 17, 2021
Ep.2 - Animals in Red Dead Redemption 2
This week's episode is all about community ecology. I introduce concepts like taxonomy, biodiversity and animal behaviour, and give specific in-game examples of my favourite realistic animal behaviours. Art by Lara LeBlanc, Theme music by Bret Eagleston (
August 10, 2021
Ep.1 - Biomes of Red Dead Redemption 2
On this episode I talk about in-game environments, called biomes, and compare their plant and animal life to real-world examples. I also talk about the impacts of human activity on in-game and real-life biomes and their animals. Art by Lara LeBlanc, Music by Bret Eagleston (
August 02, 2021