The Poetics of Video Games: Realtime Dreams and Memories

One of the most interesting things to me about 3d games and virtual worlds is that no matter what, they’re always experienced through a two dimensional medium. Even with 3d glasses or virtual reality goggles, the third vector of space is inherently an illusion. Video games are essentially light refracted through a 2d surface to create the illusion of 3d space.

Illusions, however, can still be experienced. Barring a full-blown reality-overtaking eXistenZ virtual reality, video games can never fully be phenomonologically experienced as fully as reality. In video games we have only our sense of sight and sound. Touch is a small part, but it is a static touching which is quickly forgotten.

Most important is our sense of spatial awareness. Essentially, it’s how we relate our selves to the spaces which we inhabit, and, well, simply our awareness of  spaces. I find it something at once both simple and incredibly complex. I believe that this is a key component of dreams and memories (which are essentially the same thing, and I will use the two interchangeably). Our five classical senses are of course intrinsic and trigger memories through association, but spatial awareness is at the core. Ultimately, it is our sense of place and the impressions that places make upon us that we remember.

The poetry of video games is that they can activate this same sense of spatial awareness that is core to the impressions we have of being in physical spaces. Video games are dreams or memories experienced in real time. As I said before, virtual worlds cannot be experienced as fully as reality, and neither can dreams and memories. My memory of my childhood home is fragments. The memory isn’t a fully tangible reality that I can visit. This is the magic of memories, and it is the magic of video games. Perhaps, in a way, video games are a poetry to the prose of architecture.

This is not, of course, to say that memories are the same as video games, but rather that they share the same poetic attributes of fragmented impressions. Of course, every art medium shares this poetic ability, but video games can do it in a new way. Video games simply open up new possibilities for poetic expression. These possibilities are incredibly exciting to me. My goal is to create dreams and memories that can be experienced in realtime by light refracted through a 2d surface.

This entry was posted in architecture, game design, phenomonology, poetics, thoughts, video games and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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