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Playing with landscape: social process and spatial form in video games
Aether (2008)
  • Michael W Longan, Valparaiso University
Video games not only incorporate representations of landscapes, they are themselves a form of landscape representation that communicates ideas about how the world is and how it should be. Like traditional forms of landscape representation, video games use tricks of perspective and realistic graphics to represent real world places or to create worlds that appear to be real. Through their interactivity, video games also give their players a sense of power and control over the spatial form of the landscape. However, unlike traditional forms of landscape representation, video games offer opportunities to subjectively enter the space of the game and explore the social processes that help to produce the virtual landscape. For instance, many video games highlight the role of labor in the production of landscape. Video games may therefore help their players to understand the taken-for-granted social processes that produce real world landscapes and to explore alternative utopian or dystopian social and spatial arrangements. Nevertheless, video games remain a landscape form of representation because they do not fully reveal the labor of programming and design that goes into their creation. Like traditional landscapes, video game landscapes incorporate the moral ideologies of their producers and therefore limit or direct the kinds of lessons about the real world that players might learn. Video game landscapes may therefore reinforce the dominant ideologies that govern the production of real world landscapes as much as they challenge them.
  • video games,
  • landscape,
  • representation,
  • utopia,
  • labor
Publication Date
April, 2008
Citation Information
Michael W Longan. "Playing with landscape: social process and spatial form in video games" Aether Vol. 2 (2008)
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