Not everyone has means of accessing rich, stimulating environments, whether it be down to geographic confines or financial limitations, physical and psychological health or perhaps most likely – a lack of knowledge of where these environments exist. Increasingly densified and over-populated urban centres, diminishing open space and poor weather are also other factors that limit our experience.
By focusing on our lack of experience of natural environments, it is possible to better define what it is we find redeeming about it, and how this is manifested in videogames.
Discussing his recent works having branched out into the art scene, architect and hybrid practitioner Nick Wood touched on the idea of absence of experience and the assumptions we draw from to form an image of place in our heads.
Building upon this, our interpretation of places are not only shaped by our experiences when we have visited them, but other factors such as word of mouth, elements of popular culture, and perhaps even videogames.
A digital landscape is not bound by the detrimental factors detailed at the start of the article, but they can be artificially recreated and augmented as part of a game to interpret the environment.
Drawing on the experience of ‘Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’, we are indulged in the realistic depiction of the Shropshire countryside in summer. Travelling to and from destinations within the game is paramount to the experience, unremarkable by the pace of most modern gaming conventions.
The experience is abstracted by a narrative that meanders through the game on orbs of light, conveying the apocalyptic dialogue of the visually anonymous country folk. Irrespective of the ominous messages the narrative becomes the vehicle of experience in the game and the landscape, despite its realism is ultimately a wonderful distraction.
Without the narrative the experience of the landscape is ambiguous given it partakes to a game, and our generic expectation of a game is that there is a problem that needs to be solved.
Landscape therefore becomes more meaningful when we assign a narrative to it.