The definitions of place and space are interesting when chosen to be applied to video games. Cresswell’s definitions of place and space are geographical in nature while Nitsche’s are more conducive to the nature of video games (though drawn from Lefebvre) . Cresswell defines place as material and having historical as well as personal significance. A place is fixed in space, which is the abstract concept of moving through a place. Space is everything that place is not. Cresswell states that particularly successful media conveys a profound sense of place, as if “we have been there before.” Lefebvre’s definitions of “absolute space” and “social space” are essentially Cresswell’s definitions of space and place, respectively. Nitsche uses the concepts of absolute and social space to put forth ideas about place and space in gaming. Nitsche states that “video games are social spaces understood as ‘narrative landscapes.’” What Nitsche is trying to say here is that gamers create their own sense of place through their interactions with virtual space. These interactions create a narrative unique to that player.
Additionally, the given historical significance of Silent Hill emphasizes sense of place as well. The town is very open to exploration and the player is encourage to form a relationship with it through his or her interactions with the simulated environment. This is an excellent example of a narrative landscape. In Silent Hill 2 (or any Silent Hill for that matter) many locations featured in the town can be revisited, and this adds a level of immersion for the player.
A game with a truly unique use of sound, Siren is a 2003 horror game developed by some of Silent Hill’s original team. The most important aspect of this game is a skill called “sightjackjng” in which the player navigates static attempting to see through the eyes of the enemies. Not only is the use of sound key in navigating the static, the ability wouldn’t be able to work without it as the static gets louder when the player is closer to sightjacking an enemy. The player has a map, but most of his or her navigation is guided by sightjacking. While an enemy is sightjacked, the player is able to see that enemies field of vision, as well as its location and the location of any enemies seen by the sightjacked enemy. In addition to the sound used when sighjacking, the music, sound effects, and speech of the enemies (if it can even be called speech) makes for a truly terrifying experience.
How we experience space and place is dependant on many factors, some of which can be difficult to translate into games. When a sense of place is achieved, it utilizes geographical concepts to mediate the game world to the player. These can take the form of sound, space and place. Maps can also be integral in understanding virtual space, or as demonstrated above simply used as a reference for landmarks. While the player ultimately decides if a game is good or not is mainly their choice, however there is no denying that games have standards to be met. How the virtual world of the game is understood by the player is what truly makes a game successful.
1. Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004. Print.
2. Nitsche, Michael. Video Game Spaces: Image, Play, and Structure in 3D Game Worlds. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008. Print.