Pig Simulator and World-Making in VR

cultural analysis close reading research paper
user beyond geopolitics world - making posthuman agency affectsphere the Stack VR


The experience of the virtual reality game Pig Simulator asks what the production of subjectivity can look like when the constitution of being in world-making structures reorients to be both immaterial and material. Launched in early 2016 by German programmer Stephan Isermann, the game follows pigs in their last moments through the slaughterhouse and processed into consumables. It only commences upon the game-player’s movement through a reflective coffin, signifying their simultaneous death as user-subject and birth as user-agent. By not receiving a character and by the game’s inconsistency and lack of narrative but retaining a single point shooter vantage point and ability to function and be recognized in the game, the game-player can only comprehend herself by the unexpected movements of other game entities. The game-player is enacted as an intersectional site of occurrences within the game environment, rather than as a designated subject of the game interface. The game conjures an affectsphere of the user’s reactions to its disorientation in the game world, imbuing the body of the player with sensations of anthropos-purging. In entering my analysis of the game assuming the Stack and planetary-scale computation, I uncover how Pig Simulator enacts a departure from being as a human user-subject of the anthropocene into becoming a user agent for the post-anthropocene.


Through the method of close reading the VR game’s aesthetics, nonnarrative, and user affordances, I reveal the game as a visual metaphor for the moment of the “immaterial turn” and in-between eras. I make use of select terminology of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. I suggest that Pig Simulator’s game experience of becoming can be read with Félix Guattari’s development of subjectivity, as he provisionally defines in his final book, Chaosmis. I develop the concept of affectsphere from Brian Massumi and Lauren Berlant.


  • The game’s lack of avatar and narrative reveal worldlessness as a method for: keeping-complicated the multiplicity of spatialities and temporalities made possible in the leveling of computation; preventing the possibility of human mastery; a inconsistent logic. This makes a raw system as world-making rather than a closed loop narrative (like being given an avatar in game that can be won).
  • This affective experience expands on Bratton’s concept of the user by placing the human player into an ongoing emergence in a functioning system and exposing qualities for orienting in the necessarily ambiguous becoming-user the Stack permits.
  • The game experiences surfaces being interoperable, as a quality for being as one agent among many. Interoperability is a shift away from afirmationist posthumanism of life-forces (like zoe) as constituting being - evolving the posthuman discourse in the immaterial turn.
  • The game’s single point shooter vantage, yet refusal of an avatar and narrative, creates affective experience of pre-subjectivity for the material body of the player.
  • The game experiences emerges an affectsphere, which tightly weaves the material and immaterial in becoming a computational agent - neither discounting or amplifying the role of the body alone, reinforcing its contribution the posthuman.
  • In the game users’ immateriality yet agency, becoming a computational entity as one among many is a move past bio-, geo-, and geontopolitics, and creates an ongoing emergence without mastery as a mode of world-making.

Concluding Questions

Worldlesness seems to reveal a more raw proximity between the user and system, attening the role of the interface and making the system’s affordances more felt. Is this method scalable in VR and AR training games or 3-D medical and engineering design? How might it extend to interface design, where the dissolution of the interface is a designed site for becoming posthuman (as an interoperable agent in a system) rather than dissolve political accountability and inject economic value into the user-subject (as per Olia Lialina’s Turing Complete User: Contemporary Home Computing)?🝏