Like many who went through college and then grad-school in the religion / literature / philosophy circles, I’ve read and pondered my share of Derrida and the consequences of ontology on our “demon-haunted world” … another reason I’ve absolutely loved playing AC Valhalla (about 125 hours in at this point since picking it up over the Holidays).
A pun coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in the early ’90s, hauntology refers to the study of nonexistence and unreality (so the opposite of ontology). Contemporary philosopher Mark Fisher makes extensive use of this concept, describing hauntology in his book The Weird and Eerie as “the agency of the virtual … that which acts without (physically) existing.”
For me, there’s no greater example of this than in Valhalla’s ruins. While open-world games are often dominated by landscape, mirroring the history of art where scenic oil paintings—once considered inferior—grew into a position of relative dominance, the ruin has seen a similar ascendency. Just as Romantic poets mulled over the allure of rivers and mountains, a passion for ancient ruins bloomed too, with painters like J. M. W. Turner and John Constable touring Britain in search of architectural wreckage among the rolling hills.