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On the production of space and place in digital video games: Encountering real and imagined geographies

Authors: Emma Fraser*, Lancaster University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Geographic Theory, Social Geography
Keywords: Digital geographies, digital games, space, place, imagined geographies
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper asks how geographies of digital games structure, but also reflect, experiences of space and place, both within and beyond gameworlds and spaces of play.

While there is a growing body of work engaging with digital video games in terms of culture, representation, narrative, and so on, it has proven challenging to apply existing philosophies of space and place to abstract sites of digital encounter. Terms like virtual and cyber are often used to delineate a non-real realm, against experiences in the ostensibly more real, material world. (Kinsley, 2014). Conceptually, however, cyberspace, or virtual space also highlight the impossibility of dividing social and cultural worlds into materially /imagined dichotomies; Henri Lefebvre’s pre-digital philosophies of space suggest that space is more than lived, perceived and conceived – it is heavily influenced by the abstract and imagined.

The production of space in games is entangled with politics of race and ethnicity (Soraya Murray), gender and sexuality (Ruberg), and colonialism (Mukherjee). The division (in content and audience) between blockbuster AAA games and independent (indie) games indicates precisely how digital video games might reflect different social worlds and cultural imaginaries, and thereby produce different spaces and spatialities. In their relation to capital, indie and AAA games produce space through different experiences of exchange and consumption. Reflecting particularly on the AAA/Indy division, this paper will question the current theorising of space and place in games, and propose a series of provocations that challenge existing assumptions about the relation between games and the “real” world.

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