Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
We are a long way from the panning 8-bit landscapes of early video games into fully immersive other worlds that can be explored as places in their own right. Some of these digital destinations are documented in a new online series called Other Places.
Created by YouTube user ultrabrilliant, aka writer Andy Kelly, the vignettes aimed at “celebrating beautiful video game worlds” soar through the beautiful places that gamers may be too busy speeding or shooting through to take a moment to view, or those who don’t play games may never visit.
The places chosen are as epic as any Turner vista, from the idyllic Bright Falls from Alan Wake where a haunting fog settles over pine trees and empty diners, to the more obviously fantastical locales like BioShock Infinite‘s Columbia, a city-in-the-clouds with a buoyant dreamscape of sunlit streets and steampunk monorails. There’s the decay and dark hues of Dunwall from Dishonored with its Victorian-like industrial wear, and the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim landscapes where the aurora borealis descends over sweeping vistas dotted with ruins and waterfalls. For each, you’re totally removed from the character perspective of these games, and the constant escalating need for killing, puzzle solving, or whatever the gameplay entails, to just witness these as landscapes.
I first remember getting really entranced with the landscape of a video game when charging through the Hyrule Field of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64 (this was my first console, so I missed exploring the more pixelated predecessors). In retrospect, it was really nothing impressive, just a flat green field you run through, but the fact I could go anywhere, and the space was endlessly explorable with angles that gave different perspectives on the sky and the scattering of static trees, transfixed me.
And as these landscapes have gotten more complex, more dimensional, more like actual places than sequences for gameplay, artists have started responding. For example, Justin Berry uses composites of screen captures from war-centered video games to capture a moment, like a single tree on a rocky slope, with as sharp of eye as any landscape photographer. There’s an uncanny quiet to them, appearing both hyperreal and also with tellings signs of fantasy.
Mark Tribe is similarly inspired by these video game landscapes for his Rare Earth series, where he focuses on the moments of overlooked beauty in these places of virtual violence, as well as the real world landscapes of actual militia training grounds. As Tribe writes on his site:
“It occurs to me that video game landscapes may be a significant new phase in the history of landscape representation. They are certainly a sign that video games are coming of age, and yet another indication of the convergence between what used to be known as virtual reality and what I still think of as real life.”
There’s also James Barnett whose Fauxvism series plays off of the representational style of fauvism with landscapes painted from video games like Half-Life 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV. Yet while all of these artists are responding to the transportation of place that has become a greater and greater focus of video games, even those where gory war clashes over the serenity, the Other Places series is much more about the often under-appreciated game designers themselves.
It’s the incredible depth, detail, and vision of epic space that makes these game places so compelling, even when the game action is entirely removed. Decay, disaster, and abandoned spaces have long been a preferred gaming landscape, for their eerie nature and instant mood, and it’s easy to compare the frequently ruinous places and meticulous landscapes to old 19th century Romanticism, and wonder if video games will continue to experiment into places more based on abstraction than reality. But it’s likely a mistake to parallel painting with games, as no matter their visual connection, the games’ emphasis on personal experience and, in the end, interactive action, will continue to cause them to evolve into their own realms.
Council often uses humor as a political tool to expose systems of power and inequality in a society in which even death carries a high price tag.
An exhibition at the San Francisco Opera House pairs the work of incarcerated artists with Beethoven’s story of unjust imprisonment.
Many works take disruption and repetition as their themes, and many artists resurface in different sections, creating multiple affinities.
In Cooking with Paris, Hilton capitalizes on her portrayal of being a competent woman, while highlighting its anachronism through her absurd performance. Rosler manipulates the camera in the same way.
A man says Blue Bayou took details of his life without his permission. Several women who appear in the documentary Sabaya say they did not consent to be filmed. How can filmmakers avoid these ethical pitfalls?
Hear from Holly Jean Buck, Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas, Simon Denny, Elizabeth Hoover, Renee Kemp-Rotan, Joseph Kunkel, and more at this free public event.
There is an official ban against the public mourning of Tiananmen Square victims in Hong Kong and mainland China.
After Pandora Papers Revelations, Denver Art Museum Will Restitute Four Looted Artifacts to Cambodia
The decision follows discoveries in the leaked Pandora Papers regarding antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford.