Two Places at Once
This week we were directed to design our own digital game based on the space and place of our university. I was persuaded to find something I take interest in and base the game around that- pretty simple really. I wanted something that would reflect some of my own character, however all I could think of was how exhausted I was from the fast-paced journey I had endeavoured upon to arrive to class on time.
That’s when the idea was birthed.
Why not create a game based around one of the most common problems university students face: getting to class on time (or getting to class at all for that matter). My visions were fast developing and I could see a landscape something like that of Tony Hawke: Pro Skater.
The aim of the game would be to get to class before the tutor arrives. Each mission would require the player to make it to a different building and room each time, with all faculties on campus involved. The player would be able to swap between 3 different movement settings: walking, running, skating. Different obstacles would meet the player, such as traffic on the stairwell, path closures and bumping into friends, and players would be offered bonus points if they could fulfil sub-missions along the way, such as purchasing a coffee or printing out homework. My idea was rapidly growing, and I was becoming overly involved with it, playing out different potential levels in my mind.
‘I thrash, ollie, and grind my way through an abandoned park, then a suburban neighborhood and a parking garage. As I move through these spaces, I get better and better at maneuvering on my skateboard and the spaces I encounter are increasingly complex. Yet as I move through these spaces I am actually relatively immobile’ (Murphy, 2004).
This is exactly how I felt. In my mind I was outside, running amidst the autumn breeze, stumbling down countless flights of stairs, rushing to building 19, however in actual reality, I was also immobile. I was gaining a sense of the immersive interaction that Sheila Murphy outlines video games can offer, and I was merely thinking about playing a game. Murphy discusses the continual overlapping of our world and the world of the game that occurs when we engage in video games. Unlike television, we are not simply static consumers, but are enabled to be so engrossed in the game that the ‘character controls me [us] more than I [we] control him’ (Murphy, 2004).
It occurred to me that this blurring of two inherently different worlds replicated that of what we repeatedly do in our own minds. While physically we may be stationary in one place, mentally we could be absolutely anywhere, figuratively exploring places that exist on the other side of our world, or even places that don’t exist at all outside of our own mind. Escapism.
Video games are often criticized for their ability to foster escapism, embodying ‘the alluring unreality of something erroneously conceived of existing on the other side of a screen’ (Calleja, 2010). This notion seemed almost nonsensical, given that video games seem to emulate the very nature of our own imaginations. How intriguing that we can be both completely physically present in a real-life moment, but also be completely present in the world of our imagination, or the world of a game.
- Murphy, S 2004, ‘’Live in Your World, Play in Ours’: The Spaces of Video Game Identity’, Journal of Visual Culture, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 223-238.
- Calleja, G 2010, ‘Digital Games and Escapism’, Games and Culture, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 335-353