Aperio: Games and Spaces

Research Group from the Georgia Tech Experimental Game Lab

Link Round-Up: Bunkers, Nature, Runners, Funk

The Aperio Link Round-Up is a weekly feature that gathers articles and blog entires members of the group have found interesting, providing summaries and commentary. These links are not original writings by Aperio members.

The Architectural Remnants of Cold War Yugoslavia

BLDGBLOG pointed us to this piece authored by Christoph Hinterreiter with photos by Wolfgang Thaler which shows an underground nuclear bunker in Bosnia. It details a moment captured in time—the Cold War frozen and shrink wrapped. The arrangement of the space is just as interesting as the contents of the building. BLDGBLOG author Geoff Manaugh was struck by the labyrinthine structure:

I mention this because the urge to build labyrinths—in stone or in tufa or against the detonations of nuclear war—often seems to transcend those labyrinths’ purported use-value. As Hinterreiter himself might say, constructing a labyrinth of any kind “exceeds purely functional considerations,” sliding off into mythology before too long and adding an oddly sinister veneer to any civilization that pursues it.

Both the original and Manaugh’s commentary are worth reading.

Does Looking at Nature Make People Nicer?

I chose this article because it raises a point of digital translation. If people presented with natural environments have a more amenable disposition than those confronted with man-made objects, then what happens in digital environments that are man-made representations of nature? As a role-playing game genre trope, forests, fields, and other similar spaces are considered “wild” and overrun with enemies. This is in direct contrast to the safety of the town gates or city walls. If the results of this survey are true, perhaps this trope does not accurately map to our emotions. There are, of course, plenty of games that uphold the study’s findings, but it’s worth considering how well the dynamic of safety and threat apply to the constructed and pristine.

Parkour and Gender

A part of the link round-up is finding interesting articles that have been published in the past. Writer Regina Buenaobra considers the spectacularized masculine body in Parkour in relation to the 2008 Parkour inspired game Mirror’s Edge. The game features a female lead (and numerous female supporting characters) and is set in a first-person perspective. This means that the player has little chance to engage in the spectacle of their actions because there is no body to observe. The cut-scenes in the game are rendered in cartoon graphics, which reinforces the game’s denial of scopic pleasure. One comment I need to add is that the space of the game—the sterile white city—is also less masculine compared to the common depictions of Parkour through concrete and steel. It’s not perfect, of course, but it is a great example of a game that tackles issues of gender through mechanics and space.

An Expedition into the Lost World of Exploration: ToeJam & Earl

Lastly, Chris Lepine provides a tour of Earth as presented in the Sega Genesis game ToeJame & Earl. Based on the ideas of the Rogue PC game, the game’s levels are procedurally generated. Procedural generation does not always produce the most coherent products, which actually works for the weird world of ToeJam & Earl, which is supposed to be a mish-mash of American popular culture. Lepine’s piece and another blog entry by Jason Moses provide amusing anecdotes of how the author’s played the games and explored the world when they were kids.

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