The research project entitled “Urban Landscapes in Video Games – Representations and Spatial Narratives” initiated in 2011 in the Department of Architecture, University of Thessaly. Its theme concerns videogames in architecture, and more specifically the representation of the urban environment in the digital world of videogames.

Aspects of the visual representation of the city in videogames are regarded as the initial point of a series of observations that relate to the nature of the city in videogames and its role in the, immaterial elements of the game. These elements include the scenario, the rules, the player’s interaction or the outcome. The way the city is depicted in videogames is directly dependent on the technology used as well as on the body of information that needs to be communicated to the viewer. For that reason, the research aspires to constitute not only a point of reference, but also a historic annotation, a data collection, a kind of library in which students can find the information they need.

This practice initiated with the collection of city representations of the former generations of videogames, namely arcade games. The aim was to map down the spatial aspects of the city and later on to construct correspondences with contemporary videogames, such as games on the Xbox platform.

The first categorization for the purposes of searching and detecting is the classification of games according to their content – action, adventure, action-adventure, role-playing, simulation, strategy, puzzle, and others. Arcade games were observed using the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME 0.145), which in fact simulates the hardware of the arcade machine, offering us the opportunity to access more than 7000 videogames through our computers. The detected videogames with reference to the notion of the city have been around 900 covering the period of 1976 to 2005. This is the initial body of information which students can employ in order to search the spatial characteristics they want. The data bank is currently developed further by making additions of city representations found in videogames of the Xbox platform and reorganizing the categorization.

The aim of the research is to construct a second, alternate classification which would organize the series of remarks and observations on the role of the city representation in videogames and its relation to the game process. This is attempted through an array of theoretical concepts – a set of ideas – which remarked on the city and its spatial function as a time-based audiovisual construct.

The concepts developed constitute a series of qualitative factors that organize the represented cities according to their function in the relative gamespace. The outcome is an active, developing library which aspires to give birth to a collection of conceptual cities stemming from spatial representations in videogames.

Developed at the University of Thessaly, Department of Architecture
Funded by the Research Committee, University of Thessaly

 VISIT: Urban Landscapes in Video Games