Dr. James Sweeting

Programme Leader – Lecturer in Game Studies

University of Plymouth

Email: james.sweeting(at)plymouth.ac.uk






James Sweeting is a researcher with Transtechnology Research having completed a PhD investigating the hauntological form of videogames. This is supported via an understanding of nostalgia present across the medium itself and the relationship the industry has with the past.

He is Leader of Transnational Education for Digital Design and a lecturer in Game Studies. Also teaches on MA Game Design, BA Game Arts and Design, and BA Digital Media Design (Games Design) in partnership with Nanjing University of the Arts.

In addition, he is an Associate Fellow of The Higher Education Academy, having attained recognition for meeting the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and learning support in higher education.

Also provides book reviews for Leonardo. With work having appeared in the main academic journal.

Graduated with an MA in War Studies from King’s College London and a BSc (Hons) in International Politics from City, University of London.

Furthermore, he was previously deputy reviews editor and reviewer for Switch Player Magazine. As well as having written column pieces for Thumbsticks focusing on a range of aspects affecting the medium.

Thesis Abstract

Hauntological Videogame Form: Nostalgia and a “high technology” medium. 




This thesis introduces the term Hauntological Form as a means of examining the
contemporary form of mainstream videogames. The increasing presence of nostalgia is
deemed paradoxical to a forward-facing high technology medium such as videogames. Yet, this is only a symptom of an underlying problem with the medium. By expanding upon hauntology, as used by Mark Fisher and Simon Reynolds to examine the state of popular music, the thesis will use this to identify what is happening to the current form of videogames and why.

The scope of the thesis is concerned with the current state of the mainstream videogames medium and investigates the increasingly troubled perspective the medium has with the future. It is argued that the medium to compensate for this looks to its past and treats it as a resource to sustain itself.

Aiding this investigation the thesis provides focuses on the contemporary state of the
medium as of writing, which is 2023, and is supported by examples across the history of the medium but no earlier than 1983 when the North American videogame market crash occurred. Thus, allowing the thesis to consider the previous time the medium faced a turning point.

Influencing this thesis is that it is not primarily targeting an academic audience. Instead, it aims to also be of benefit to videogame developers, videogame students, and others actively engaged with the videogames medium.

The contribution to knowledge that this thesis is providing is a new understanding of the changing form of contemporary mainstream videogames. One that instead of providing novel experiences is looking to its past to provide resources for remediated experiences so that “new” products can enter the market. Thus, changing the way that the medium presents itself, gradually dropping the pretence that it is a forward-facing medium and instead relying on its past to sustain the medium long term.

Selected Bibliography:

Sweeting, J. (2023). ‘Hauntological Form: Inevitable Nostalgia in Contemporary Videogames.’, Video Games: Time & Nostalgia. University of Exeter.

Sweeting, J. (2022) ‘Can you Make Money from Nostalgia in a Galaxy Far Far Away? The difficulty of effectively utilising nostalgia to bring Star Wars to both a new and existing audience.’, in Transtechnology Research Reader 2019-21. Plymouth: University of Plymouth, pp. 63–81.

Sweeting, J. (2021) ‘Handmade Pixels: Independent Video Games and the Quest for Authenticity by Jesper Juul’, Leonardo. MIT Press – Journals, 54(2), pp. 257–259. doi: 10.1162/leon_r_02025.

Sweeting, J. (2020) ‘How to Play Video Games edited by Matthew Thomas Payne and Nina B. Huntemann’, Leonardo. MIT Press – Journals, 53(3), pp. 347–348. doi: 10.1162/leon_r_01900.

Sweeting, J. (2020) ‘Vicarious Nostalgia and Authentic Depictions of the Past in Historical Videogames.’, The Present and Future of History and Games. University of Warwick.

Sweeting, J. (2020) ‘Star Wars after Lucas: A Critical Guide to the Future of the Galaxy by Dan Golding’, Leonardo. MIT Press – Journals, 53(2), pp. 233–235. doi: 10.1162/leon_r_01874.

Sweeting, J. (2019) ‘Authenticity: Depicting the Past in Historical Videogames’, in Transtechnology Research Reader 2018. Plymouth: University of Plymouth, pp. 62–83.

Morcom, J. and Sweeting, J. (2019) ‘Video Game Nostalgia’, Think: Digital Futures – 2ser, 17 September. Available at: https://2ser.com/thinkdigitalfutures/.

Sweeting, J. (2019) Relative Nostalgia and the Revival of Past Aesthetics in Videogames – The Arts Institute, Arts Institute. Available at: http://blogs.plymouth.ac.uk/artsinstitute/2019/08/28/relative-nostalgia-and-the-revival-of-past-aesthetics-in-videogames/ (Accessed: 26 September 2019).

Sweeting, J. (2019) ‘Super Power, Spoony Bards, and Silverware by Dominic Arsenault’, Leonardo, 52(2), pp. 199–201. doi: 10.1162/leon_r_01727.

Sweeting, J. (2018) ‘Playback: A Genealogy of 1980s British Videogames Playback: A Genealogy of 1980s British Videogames by Alex Wade’, Leonardo. MIT Press – Journals, 51(2), pp. 201–203. doi: 10.1162/leon_r_01587.

Sweeting, J. (2017) ‘Atari to Zelda: Japan’s Videogames in Global Contexts by Mia Consalvo.’, Leonardo. MIT Press, pp. 213–215. doi: 10.1162/LEON_r_01390.