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CSI Skill Tree: Kentucky Route Zero

A screenshot from the video game Kentucky Route Zero, showing a cabin, viewed from above, under a floodlight in what looks to be a museum or gallery space. In the foreground, we can see shadowy beams holding up lighting. Superimposed on the image are headshots for the special guests at this event, Zoyander Street and Rachel Carr.

The CSI Skill Tree series from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University examines how video games envision possible futures, build rich and thought-provoking worlds, and engage people as active participants in unfolding stories.

In our latest episode, we discuss Kentucky Route Zero, a magical realist adventure game about a secret, paranormal highway running through the caves beneath Kentucky. The game was released in five acts between 2013 and 2020, and it takes a mind-bending artistic and philosophical approach to themes of labor, debt, alienation, rural disinvestment, automation, the collision of the digital and physical worlds, and how history haunts our experience of the present and our possible futures.

Our guests are Zoyander Street, an artist, researcher, critic, and ethnographer who works on video games, media art, and other (mis)uses of technology, and Rachel Carr, a scholar of Southern U.S. and Modernist literature, as well as Women’s and Gender Studies, at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky.

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