The End?

And now we come to the end (maybe?) In any case, I have made a number of changes to the graphics and the text of my atlas project (including not a few spelling and grammar corrections. Apparently InDesign doesn’t have a spell-checker. Urk.) Here is the PDF:




I left a comment on Rosendo’s Blog and Lindsey’s Blog

Cut Footage and Coming Attractions

First thing this week, I’m going to talk about the comparison that didn’t make it into my draft for the atlas project. The games in the Assassin’s Creed series are set in a alternate history rife with science fiction and conspiracy. However, the historical locations explored by the player in the games feature highly realistic reconstructions of major buildings and landmarks. This is especially true in the second game, which is set in Renaissance Italy and showcases many of the famous landmarks in Florence and Venice from that period. Like many of the sandbox games that are set in real world locations, the maps and area that the player can explore in Assassin’s Creed 2 is not identical to the real world location. However, the designers of the game chose another method to recreate the locations in a way that would resonate with the player and create the impression of a recreation.

Map not oriented to north. Ignore the diamond icons, they're in-game indicators

Comparing that map to this tourist map shows that, while the space in-between the landmarks, marked in darker gray on the in-game map, is not nessecarily correct, the rough location of each landmark in relation to the others is approximately correct. This demonstrates how video game maps serve to define the space of a game, contextualizing the game location in the terms that serve the narrative of the game, rather than adhering to geographic principles and exact scientific cartography even in realistic games.

In other news, I have here the PDF I used for printing the draft copy of my atlas project.


I already know of several changes that I’m going to make before the final copy. I’m not happy with the background (I think I want to make it even more transparent and to change the color to a slight tan either on the background as a whole or just for the lines and rose. The pictures came out significantly darker than they displayed on any monitor I looked at them on, so I’m going to brighten them to help them stand out better (they became very dim on the printout)

Comments 11/18

I left a comment on Rosendo’s Blog

“You may be eaten by a Grue”

The construction of any new form of media creates new ways of communicating and understanding the world. Any form of media interacts with its consumers and directs their attention. This is as true for fundamental forms of communication older than the historical record as it is for an invention created last week. Video Games are no exception to the rule. In his book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy(1), James Paul Gee presents an argument for video games teaching us new sets of rules (the possible actions in the game) and how to apply those rules within the defined arena in which they operate to overcome the challenges presented by the game. In order to do that, they have to define a context for those rules.

That context can be a social space, or a mathematical space. But most often the context is described as a physical space, a world (or worlds!) in which a character or characters controlled by the player(s) navigate. Michael Nitsche explores these created spaces in Video Game Spaces(2), describing how they are designed and constructed by both the game maker and the player. Even some of the earliest games used physical space, such as Tennis for Two, quite possibly the first recognizable ‘video game’ ever created in 1958 and the precursor to Pong. These simple self-explanatory spaces needed little context, but soon later games used a world much bigger than what could be displayed on a single screen. In order to define these larger spaces, more tools were needed and were either provided by the game’s creators or constructed by its players. One of the most potent tools for contextualizing space beyond what can be immediately seen is, of course, the map.

A good example of the early player-created versions of a game map can be seen with the text adventure game Zork. Evolving out of MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons) in 1978, Zork – The Great Underground Empire: Part 1 (Later known as simply Zork 1 and henceforth refered to as Zork) is a fantasy adventure consisting entirely of textual description. But while the description of each area and event was displayed individually, the game took place in a defined space contextualized by the descriptive passages. Some of the players of Zork created maps of these interconnecting areas to provide and reference this context, either for their own use or for the use of their friends when they played the game. (3)

A Map of Zork 1, created in 1981 by Stephen Rost

As games grew increasingly complex in both their content and the technology they used, the use of maps to define game spaces became increasingly sophisticated. As with any use of a media format, the use of maps in games both has been affected by and affects the concept and use of maps by those who come in contact with their use. Next week I’ll be looking at more recent game maps and the effect that they may have had on modern map use, and vice-versa.

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1 Gee, James Paul What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2003

2 Nitsche, Michael Video Game Spaces: Image, Play and Structure in 3D Game Worlds Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press 2008

3) Retrieved from

Comment 11/11

I left a comment on Alisa’s Blog

Archetectural Reconstruction

I chose to use as the subject of my Architectural Reconstruction a section of the Main Street in Luray, Virginia that currently has a significant number of empty areas. I used a section of the 1910 Sanborn Map of Luray to provide a base for reconstructing the street. The disadvantage here is that this section of the main street in Luray is on a significant grade.

I created a reconstruction of the street from the Sanborn map. Several of the buildings are still standing (In fact, all of the buildings remaining on the street are present on the Sanborn map), so recreating their rooflines was easier than it would have been otherwise.

Quite a few of the buildings are now missing, however, as one can see in Google Street View:

Using a photograph of the street from 1907 from the Library of Congress archives ( I reconstructed the building that had occupied the street just downhill from the one still standing on the corner of Main Street and Bank Street, the Mansion Inn.

I was unable to discover what happened to the Mansion Inn (the area is now a small parking lot and a grassy field.) I suspect that a combination of economic downturns and the construction of increasingly modern facilities to house the tourists that came to see the caverns eventually led it to going out of business and being demolished, along with a number of the other buildings on that section of road. A trip out to Page County to check the land records would reveal the truth, but I was unable to find the time for the trip. The other buildings (a mixture of shops and residencies, according to the Sanborn map) suggesting at least some of the population left the area after 1910, not really an unexpected turn of events given the time period.

Even though this was a relatively quick, simple, and dirty exploration into historical reconstruction, I think I have gotten a feel for the utility of Historic Reconstruction using tools like Google SketchUp. A quick project reconstructing a small area can provide a sense of the space, and reveal questions to ask about the area. A more detailed reconstruction using photographic reference can restore lost historic buildings in a form that gives a much better sense of their shape than the handful of photographs. Either a detailed or a simplified schematic form of reconstruction can be used to tell histories in new ways. My own little project here, for instance, made me think of a change-over-time project, showing the growth and change of an area over time, providing a solid visual reference for how the place developed through history.

One final image, while I’m thinking about it: A postcard featuring essentially the same area as the pictures I used above, but in color!