What is it?

Multispecies Rituals is a side-scrolling platform game—a speculative world (and accompanying essay) that holds open the definition of "species" and "ritual" to include nonlife, hybridities and artificialities, geologic and hydrologic forces, spirits, ancestors, and the unruly agencies of plant and animal bodies. In gameplay, an avatar runs and jumps to navigate a series of platforms, collecting talismans. Each talisman prompts the player to write out a sequence of doings, recitations, or gestures that implicate nonhuman entities. User rituals are collected and catalogued (below) as a generative resource and performative repertoire for multispecies worlds, for telling better stories—rock-stories, plant-stories, stories about cities, microbes, genetically modified salmon, smartphones, or space debris—with religious feeling.



Daily, our screens flood with news of anthropogenic disasters, species extinctions, urban sprawls and decays, massive-scale extractive policies, projects, or protests, and technoscientific moves hatched to clean up the mess we are in. Harvard biochemists developing a bionic leaf to harvest solar energy say, “we think we can do better than plants” (Biello 2015). To finance the global uptake of this “frontier” technology, the same scientists recommend the World Bank (Faunce et al. 2013)—an institution whose development lending programs are conditional on policy reforms including trade liberalization and mass privatization (Kovach and Lansman 2006). In discoveries and developments, ecologies are parsed through institutionalized modes of making subjects of knowledge and objects of trade to instantiate new modes of territorialization and landscapes are remapped to exclude their inhabitants (Brockington and Igoe 2007). It is in this context that rising sea levels, extinctions, and the creeping edges of desert are met with “frontier” solutions, even as Indigenous peoples and their millennia-old technologies of relationship to land, water, air, and spirit hang in the balance of... Read essay


Barrier Ritual

You have collected the Barrier talisman. Ritual objects and architecture shape the space of the city. Ritual activity can also create divisions in private or public space. You must perform a ritual that is aware of how repeated practices enable or inhibit relationships in a physical space. Write out a prayer, chant, sequence of movements, or creative act.
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Companion Species Ritual

Ms. Cayenne Pepper
You have collected the Companion Species talisman. Ms. Cayenne Pepper is Donna Haraway's Australian Shepherd; through the metaphor of Companion Species, Haraway shows how we are tangled up in interspecies co-evolution. Companion Species are not just pets but all the life forms that live inside and around us. You must perform a ritual for or including Companion Species. Write out a blessing, chant, procedure, spell, or skit.
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Demon Ritual

You have collected the Demon talisman. Demon is an unnerving, dangerous, or evil spiritual or affective presence. You must perform a ritual for, with, or against Demon. Do you see how the performance of ritual might be permissive of some practices and intolerant of others — how repetition makes or breaks what is allowed to happen? Write a ritual recollection, a series of steps, a ceremonial process, or an idea.
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DVD/Netflix Ritual

You have collected the Netflix talisman. This talisman demonstrates how media both represents and acts as ritual. Because rituals have the power to shape how the world unfolds, how can media rituals participate in a response to ecological crisis? Perform a media ritual; you might describe a caesural moment in a film, an image or icon that shocks you out of the mundane, or any ritual aspect of pop culture. This could be a poem, idea, sequence of "doings," or a prayer.
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Ghostberry Ritual

You have collected the Ghostberry talisman. Ghostberry, Snowberry, or pepq'éyò:s are common in the Pacific Northwest and used as medicine and in ceremony by many Coast Salish people. What nonhuman beings inhabit the place you are in? You must perform a ritual for or with a local nonhuman. This could be a poem, idea, sequence of "doings," or a prayer.
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GMO Ritual

Monsanto Corn
You have collected the Genetically Modified Organism talisman. You must perform a ritual. Write out a blessing, chant, procedure, spell, or skit for genetically modified beings.
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Creature Ritual

You have collected the Creature talisman. Creature is a real or imagined being. You must perform a ritual with Creature or describe how Creature's participation in ritual co-shapes the reality you inhabit. This could be a chant, a step-by-step, a choreography, or prayer.
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Memento Ritual

You have collected the Memento talisman. Choose an object that is important to you, something that a story or meaning has stuck to. You must perform a ritual with this memento. Write out a procedure, sequence, ritual memory, or recitation.
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Presence Ritual

You have collected the Presence talisman. Presence is an empathetic other-than-human being. Presence is felt in many different ways. Presence can bring comfort or responsibility. You must perform a ritual with, before, in the midst of, or for Presence. This could be a poem, idea, sequence of "doings," or a prayer.
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Product Ritual

You have collected the Product talisman. Are products ritual objects? Is consumption a ritual? If repeating a pattern or sequence of practices is a way of performing identity, how do rites that implicated goods or designed objects participate? What are the ecological consequences of product rituals? You must perform a ritual using a product. Write a ritual recollection, a series of steps, a ceremonial process, or an idea.
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Smartphone Ritual

You have collected the Smartphone talisman. Can a device as ritual enact responsible change? If ritual is religious technology, is technology religious? You must perform a ritual. This could be a poem, idea, sequence of "doings," or a prayer.
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Topography Ritual

You have collected the Topography talisman. This talisman represents the complex contours of the place that surrounds you and the crests, plateaus, and valleys of relationship that you are caught up in. You must perform a ritual directly related to the physical features of the place you live. Write out a blessing, chant, procedure, healing, or doing.
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