Going to Ludotopia 2010I am going to Copenhagen. Yes, to Ludotopia. Ludotopia is a rather unique workshop on videogame spaces where contributors actually group together in pairs and prepare presentations on each other's papers. What a great concept!
Working title: Videogame Wastelands as Non-places of Possibility
Keywords: videogame spaces, non-places, wasteland, possibility, actualisation, perception
Recently, post-apocalyptic wastelands have become a favourite setting of many blockbuster videogames. Fallout 3 (Bethesda, 2008), the Stalker (THQ, 2007) games and Borderlands (Gearbox, 2009) all use the wasteland environment as a backdrop and other games are very likely to follow in their steps. Videogame spaces have been famously described as 'spaces of possibilities' (Salen and Zimmerman, 2004) because they are characterised by change, both procedural and random, as well as by the construction of a narrative and ludic environment as an ongoing process rather than as a fixed entity. Given their potential for flux and nomadic and unsettled experiences of their inhabitants, it can be argued that wastelands in Fallout 3 and Stalker can also be seen as non-places.
The concept of ‘non-places’ introduced by the French anthropologist Marc Augé describes places like airport terminals, supermarkets and others that are not 'relational, historical and concerned with identity'. (Augé, 1995) Void of relations and identity, these spaces are characterised by solitary individuality and the ephemeral. In games like Fallout 3, for example, the various points that the player can visit in the wasteland can be seen as non-places: the historical connections have been lost or subverted and the player, aptly named the 'lone wanderer', is an outsider everywhere. However, Augé’s definition does not fully represent videogame spaces. The wastelands in Fallout 3 and in Stalker actively shape gameplay when events are actualised from a series of possibilities that videogame spaces consist of. Considering this, it would be useful to extend notions of ‘non-place’ to include Gilles Deleuze's concept of the 'any-space-whatever' or a 'virtual space, whose fragmented components might be assembled in multiple combinations, a space of yet-to-be actualised possibilities.' (Bogue, 2003)
Although the relation between Deleuze's and Augé's ideas on space has been debated by critics, the wasteland metaphor describing videogame space explores this connection in-depth. Conversely, the connected notion of the non-place provides a route for researching the lack of identity and the multiplicity that are characteristic of videogame spaces. This paper, in viewing post-apocalyptic wastelands as non-places, argues that the wasteland scenarios not coincidental choices for game-environments but metaphors that describe how emergent types of videogame spaces are perceived.
Augé, M., 1995. Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London: Verso.
BORDERLANDS (2009), Gearbox Software, PC, Xbox, PlayStation 3
Bogue, R., 2003. Deleuze on Cinema, New York: Routledge.
Deleuze, G., 1986. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, London: Athlone.
FALLOUT 3 (2008), Bethesda Softworks, PC, Xbox, PlayStation 3
Salen, K. & Zimmerman, E., 2003. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, Cambridge, Mass.; London: MIT.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: THE SHADOW OF CHERNOBYL (2007), THQ, PC