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SPACE TIME PLAY


SPACE TIME PLAY
COMPUTER GAMES,
ARCHITECTURE
AND URBANISM:
THE NEXT LEVEL

Edited by

Friedrich von Borries,
Steffen P. Walz,
Matthias Böttger

In collaboration with
Drew Davidson, Heather Kelley, Julian Kücklich

Birkhäuser
Basel _ Boston _ Berlin



Imprint

Acknowledgements

Design: onlab, Nicolas Bourquin
Prepress: Sebastian Schenk
Translation from German into English: Jenna Krumminga, Ian Pepper
Translation from Italian into English: Federico Roascio
Copyediting: Jenna Krumminga, Tobias Kurtz, Ian Pepper
Proofreading: Lucinda Byatt (Edinburgh)
Fonts: Grotesque MT, Walbaum
Printed on acid-free paper produced from chlorine-free pulp. TCF ∞
Printed in Germany

Space Time Play would not exist without the help, inspiration and support of many colleagues and friends. Our deepest thanks go out to all
the authors of the book, without whose contributions this compendium could not have come into being. We would also like to thank the
studios and publishers that granted us the right to print pictures of
their games.

www.spacetimeplay.org
Library of Congress Control Number: 2007933332
Bibliographic information published by the German National Library.
The German National Library lists this publication in the Deutsche
Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available on the
Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.
This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved, whether the
whole or part of the material is concerned. Specifically, the rights of
translation, reprinting, re-use of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting,
reproduction on microfilms or in other formats, and storage in data
bases are reserved. For any kind of use, permission of the copyright
owner must be obtained.
© 2007 Birkhäuser Verlag AG

Basel _ Boston _ Berlin
P.O. Box 133, CH-4010 Basel, Switzerland
Part of Springer Science+Business Media
© 2007 Friedrich von Borries, Steffen P. Walz, Matthias Böttger, authors and individual copyright holders.
© 2007 for images see detailed list in the appendix. Images not otherwise indicated are the property of the named project authors, text


authors and game developers.
ISBN: 978-3-7643-8414-2

We thank Ludger Hovestadt, Hans-Peter Schwarz, Gerhard M. Buurman
and Kees Christiaanse for both their content contributions and their
financial commitment, without which we would not have been able to
produce this book.
We owe the selection of Game Reviews collected in this book, as well
as our connections to many authors, to Drew Davidson, Heather Kelley
and Julian Kücklich. We thank Nicolas Bourquin for the design and the
patience with which he conducted his work. With much dedication,
Jenna Krumminga edited the diverse texts into an easy-to-read whole.
Monika Annen, Tobias Kurtz, Anne Mikoleit, Caroline Pachoud and
Sibylla Spycher supported us in the editorial work with great dedication
and great exertion, for which we would like to thank them sincerely.
We thank our editor Robert Steiger for his faith, without which this
experimental project would not have materialized; we thank Nora
Kempkens for a smooth work flow.
In addition to the many whom we unfortunately cannot name here, we
also thank Ulrich Brinkmann and Katrin Schöbel for their encouragement, guidance and counsel.
This book has been sponsored by:
ETH Zurich, Institute of Building Technology, Chair for Computer
Aided Architectural Design, Switzerland. Zurich University of the
Arts (ZHdK), Switzerland. ZHdK, Department of Design, Interaction
Design & Game Design Study Program, Switzerland. ETH Zurich,
Institute for Urban Design, Chair of Architecture and Urban Design,
Switzerland. KCAP, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. ASTOC, Architects
and Planners, Cologne, Germany.

Interaction Design
Game Design

The editors’ work on this book has been partially funded by the
National Competence Center in Research on Mobile Information and
Communication Systems (NCCR-MICS), a center supported by the
Swiss National Science Foundation under grant number 5005-67322
and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

987654321
www.birkhauser.ch

4


Table of contents

6

Table of contents: Essays, Statements, Interviews

8

Table of contents: Game Reviews

9

Table of contents: Project Descriptions

10

Introduction
Friedrich von Borries,
Steffen P. Walz,
Matthias Böttger

Level 1

14

THE ARCHITECTURE OF COMPUTER
AND VIDEO GAMES
A SHORT SPACE-TIME HISTORY OF
INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT

Level 2

138

MAKE BELIEVE URBANISM
THE LUDIC CONSTRUCTION OF
THE DIGITAL METROPOLIS

Level 3

216

UBIQUITOUS GAMES
ENCHANTING PLACES, BUILDINGS,
CITIES AND LANDSCAPES

Level 4

320

SERIOUS FUN
UTILIZING GAME ELEMENTS FOR ARCHITECTURAL
DESIGN AND URBAN PLANNING

Level 5

410

FAITES VOS JEUX
GAMES BETWEEN UTOPIA AND DYSTOPIA

488

Author biographies

495

Image copyrights

5


Table of contents
Level 1

16

26

44

56
61

74

88

100

110

118

132

134

Level 2 146

158
164

174

182

186

200

206

214

Essays, Statements, Interviews

PLACES TO PLAY
What Game Settings Can Tell Us about Games
Andreas Lange
A SHORT HISTORY OF DIGITAL
GAMESPACE
Dariusz Jacob Boron
ALLEGORIES OF SPACE
The Question of Spatiality in Computer Games
Espen Aarseth
NARRATIVE SPACES
Henry Jenkins
GAME PHYSICS
The Look & Feel Challenges of Spectacular Worlds
Ronald Vuillemin
LABYRINTH AND MAZE
Video Game Navigation Challenges
Clara Fernández-Vara
STEERING THROUGH THE MICROWORLD
A Short History and Terminology of Video Game
Controllers
Winnie Forster
VARIATION OVER TIME
The Transformation of Space in Single-screen
Action Games
Jesper Juul
LISTEN TO THE BULK OF THE ICEBERG
On the Impact of Sound in Digital Games
Axel Stockburger
WALLHACKS AND AIMBOTS
How Cheating Changes the Perception of Gamespace
Julian Kücklich
FORM FOLLOWS FUN
Working as a Space Gameplay Architect
Olivier Azémar
LOAD AND SUPPORT
Architectural Realism in Video Games
Ulrich Götz
USE YOUR ILLUSION
Immersion in Parallel Worlds
Florian Schmidt
MAKING PLACES
Richard A. Bartle
ACTIVITY FLOW ARCHITECTURE
Environment Design in Active Worlds and EverQuest
Mikael Jakobsson
WHAT IS A SYNTHETIC WORLD?
Edward Castronova, James J. Cummings,
Will Emigh, Michael Fatten, Nathan Mishler,
Travis Ross, Will Ryan
COMPETING IN METAGAME GAMESPACE
eSports as the First Professionalized Computer
Metagames
Michael Wagner
PLAYING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILIES
Current Scene of Reality-based Games in Beijing
Zhao Chen Ding
NARRATIVE ENVIRONMENTS
From Disneyland to World of Warcraft
Celia Pearce
PLAYING WITH URBAN LIFE
How SimCity Influences Planning Culture
Daniel G. Lobo
NEW PUBLIC SPHERE
The Return of the Salon and the End of Mass Media
Peter Ludlow

6

Level 3 218

230

233

238

248

251

266

276

290

304
312

Level 4 328
332
335
340

351

352

354

358

372

376
380

384

NEW BABYLON RELOADED
Learning from the Ludic City
Lukas Feireiss
PLAY AS CREATIVE MISUSE
Barcode Battler and the Charm of the Real
Claus Pias
UBIQUITOUS GAMING
A Vision for the Future of Enchanted Spaces
Jane McGonigal
CREATING ALTERNATE REALITIES
A Quick Primer
Christy Dena
PERVASIVE GAMES
Bridging the Gaps between the Virtual and the Physical
Steve Benford, Carsten Magerkurth,
Peter Ljungstrand
THE POETICS OF AUGMENTED SPACE
The Art of Our Time
Lev Manovich
URBAN ROLE-PLAY
The Next Generation of Role-Playing in Urban Space
Markus Montola
CHANGING URBAN PERSPECTIVES
Illuminating Cracks and Drawing Illusionary Lines
Staffan Björk
PERVASIVE GAMESPACES
Gameplay Out in the Open
Bo Kampmann Walther
PERSUASION AND GAMESPACE
Ian Bogost
LIFE IS NOT COMPLETELY A GAME
Urban Space and Virtual Environments
Howard Rheingold
PLAY STATIONS
Neil Leach
TACTICS FOR A PLAYFUL CITY
Iain Borden
WHY GAMES FOR ARCHITECTURE?
Ludger Hovestadt
GAME OF LIFE
On Architecture, Complexity
and the Concept of Nature as a Game
Georg Vrachliotis
DESIGN PATTERNS ARE DEAD
Long Live Design Patterns
Jussi Holopainen, Staffan Björk
THE UNINHIBITED FREEDOM
OF PLAYFULNESS
Marc Maurer, Nicole Maurer
VIVA PIÑATA
Architecture of the Everyday
Tor Lindstrand
798 MUTIPLAYER DESIGN GAME
A New Tool for Parametric Design
Kas Oosterhuis, Tomasz Jaskiewicz
RULE-BASED URBAN PLANNING
The Wijnhaven Project, KCAP (Rotterdam)
Kees Christiaanse
TIT FOR TAT AND URBAN RULES
Alexander Lehnerer
LIGHTLY AUGMENTING REALITY
Learning through Authentic Augmented Reality Games
Eric Klopfer
SCENARIO GAMES
Vital Techniques for Interactive City Planning
Raoul Bunschoten

SPACE TIME PLAY


Table of contents
398

401
404

407

Level 5 416
420

425

430
438

441

444

450
452
456
462

466

480

484

Essays, Statements, Interviews

THE NEW MENTAL LANDSCAPE
Why Games are Important for Architecture
Antonino Saggio
“CAN I TELEPORT AROUND?”
Jesse Schell
TOWARDS A GAME THEORY OF
ARCHITECTURE
Bart Lootsma
ACTION IN THE HANDS OF THE USER
William J. Mitchell
WAR/GAMES AFTER 9/11
James Der Derian
WAR PLAY
Practicing Urban Annihilation
Stephen Graham
ENDER’S GAME
Towards a Synthetic View of the World
James H. Korris
FORBIDDEN GAMES
Eyal Danon, Galit Eilat
OUTDOOR AUGMENTED REALITY
Technology and the Military
Wayne Piekarski, Bruce H. Thomas
AFTER NET ART, WE MAKE MONEY
Artists and Locative Media
Marc Tuters
“EASTERN EUROPE, 2008”
Maps and Geopolitics in Video Games
Stephan Günzel
THE GAME OF INTERACTION
Gerhard M. Buurman
ATOPIA (ON VICE CITY)
McKenzie Wark
PLAYING WITH ART
Hans-Peter Schwarz
CHINESE GOLD FARMERS
Immigrant Workers in the Game Land
Ge Jin
ADVERTISEMENT IN VIDEO GAMES
“Sell My Tears,” Says the Game Publisher
Christian Gaca
RE-PUBLIC PLAYSCAPE
A Concrete Urban Utopia
Alberto Iacovoni
GAMESPACE
Mark Wigley

7


Table of contents
Level 1

20
24
32
34
36
38
40
42
48
50
52
54
64
66
68
70
78
80
82
84
86
94
96
98
104
106
108
114
116
122
124
126
128

Game Reviews

DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION
Gillian Andrews
Wii SPORTS
Heather Kelley
TENNIS FOR TWO/PONG
Cindy Poremba
ASTEROIDS
Jesper Juul
BATTLEZONE
Andreas Schiffler
DEFENDER
Jesper Juul
WOLFENSTEIN 3D
Alex de Jong
COUNTER-STRIKE
Alex de Jong
MYST
Drew Davidson
SUPER MARIO BROS.
Martin Nerurkar
TETRIS
Katie Salen
ICO
Drew Davidson
ZORK
Nick Montfort
LEMMINGS
Martin Nerurkar
WORMS
Clara Fernández-Vara
MAX PAYNE
Paolo Ruffino
PAC-MAN
Chaim Gingold
DIABLO
Stephen Jacobs
SILENT HILL 2
Frank Degler
SPLINTER CELL
Thé Chinh Ngo
SAM & MAX HIT THE ROAD
Julian Kücklich
KIRBY: CANVAS CURSE
Thiéry Adam
KATAMARI DAMACY
Julian Kücklich
EYETOY PLAY
Heather Kelley
ELITE
Ed Byrne
PRINCE OF PERSIA
Drew Davidson
SUPER MARIO 64
Troy Whitlock
REZ
Julian Kücklich
DESCENT
James Everett
SUPER MONKEY BALL
Troels Degn Johansson
TONY HAWK’S AMERICAN WASTELAND
Dörte Küttler
LEGACY OF KAIN: SOUL REAVER
Phil Fish
RESCUE ON FRACTALUS
Noah Falstein

8

130

Level 2 140
142
144
150
152
154
156
168
170
172
178
180
190
192
194
196
198
210
212

Level 3 242
244
316

QUAKE
Patrick Curry
TRON
Rolf F. Nohr
NEUROMANCER
Espen Aarseth
SNOW CRASH
Neil Alphonso
THE SIMS
Mary Flanagan
THERE
Florian Schmidt
ENTROPIA UNIVERSE
Florian Schmidt
SECOND LIFE
Florian Schmidt
LINEAGE
Sungah Kim
KINGDOM HEARTS
Troy Whitlock
WORLD OF WARCRAFT
Diane Carr
SID MEIER’S CIVILIZATION
Jochen Hamma
ANIMAL CROSSING
Heather Kelley
DARK CHRONICLE
Dean Chan
THE GETAWAY
Gregory More
GRAND THEFT AUTO: SAN ANDREAS
Gregory More
GRIM FANDANGO
Julian Kücklich
PSYCHONAUTS
Drew Davidson
SIMCITY
David Thomas
MAJESTIC
Kurt Squire
I LOVE BEES
Sean Stewart
PERPLEX CITY
Steve Peters
eXistenZ
Adriana de Souza e Silva

Level 4 368

PASSPORT TO …
Ragna Körby, Tobias Kurtz

Level 5 414

WARGAMES
Rolf F. Nohr
KUMA\WAR
Stefan Werning
AMERICA’S ARMY
Stefan Werning
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: SHADOW OF CHERNOBYL
Ernest W. Adams
SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS
David Thomas
THE TRUMAN SHOW
Rolf F. Nohr
MONOPOLY
Marie Huber, Achim Nelke

434
436
458
460
470
472

SPACE TIME PLAY


Table of contents
Level 1

22
72

Project Descriptions

BREAKOUT FOR TWO
Florian “Floyd” Müller
CHARBITAT
Michael Nitsche

344
346
348

Level 3 222
224
226
228
246
256
258
260
262
264
270
272
274
280
282
284
286
288
294
296

298
300
302

308
310
318

Level 4 322
324
326

GEOCACHING
Jack W. Peters
MOGI
Benjamin Joffe
BOTFIGHTERS
Mirjam Struppek, Katharine S. Willis
THE BEAST
Dave Szulborski
THE ART OF THE HEIST
Dave Szulborski
PIRATES!
Staffan Björk, Peter Ljungstrand
CAN YOU SEE ME NOW
Steve Benford
M.A.D. COUNTDOWN
Steffen P. Walz
PACMANHATTAN
Frank Lantz
TYCOON
Gregor Broll
PROSOPOPEIA 1
Staffan Jonsson
RELIVING THE REVOLUTION
Karen Schrier
EPIDEMIC MENACE
Irma Lindt
URBAN FREE FLOW
Lukas Feireiss
ARQUAKE
Bruce H. Thomas, Wayne Piekarski
CONQWEST
Frank Lantz
WHAVSM?
Martin Budzinski, Henrik Isermann
DEMOR
Claus Pias
INSECTOPIA
Johan Peitz, Staffan Björk
’ERE BE DRAGONS
Stephen Boyd Davis, Rachel Jacobs,
Magnus Moar, Matt Watkins
FAUST – ACOUSTIC ADVENTURE
KP Ludwig John
CATCHBOB!
Nicolas Nova, Fabien Girardin
GEOGAMES
Christoph Schlieder, Sebastian
Matyas, Peter Kiefer
.WALK
a watchful passer-by
MANHATTAN STORY MASHUP
Jürgen Scheible, Ville Tuulos
FIRST PERSON SHOOTER
Aram Bartholl

350
362
364
366
370
388

390
392
394
396

Level 5 412
474
476
478

SAUERBRATEN
Andreas Dieckmann, Peter Russell
TINMITH
Wayne Piekarski, Bruce H. Thomas
IMPLANT
Wayne Ashley
GAMEGAME
Aki Järvinen
SPACEFIGHTER
Winy Maas
KAISERSROT
Alexander Lehnerer
REXPLORER
Rafael Ballagas, Steffen P. Walz
PLASTICITY
Mathias Fuchs
THE HARBOUR GAME
Tobias Løssing, Rune Nielsen,
Andreas Lykke-Olesen, Thomas Fabian Delman
BIG URBAN GAME
Frank Lantz
SUBCITY
Elizabeth Sikiaridi, Frans Vogelaar
SUPERCITY
Troels Degn Johansson
BLINKENLIGHTS
Rahel Willhardt
OPS ROOM
Sabine Himmelsbach
CHANGING THE GUARD
Stephan Trüby, Stephan Henrich, Iassen Markov
THE SCALABLE CITY
Sheldon Brown
THE MINISTRY OF RESHELVING
Jane McGonigal

ARCHITECTURE_ENGINE_1.0
Jochen Hoog
NOZZLE ENGINE
Wolfgang Fiel, Margarete Jahrmann
GAMESCAPE
Beat Suter, René Bauer

9


WHY SHOULD AN
ARCHITECT CARE
ABOUT COMPUTER
GAMES?

10

SPACE TIME PLAY


Introduction

AND WHAT CAN A
GAME DESIGNER
TAKE FROM
ARCHITECTURE?
Computer games are part and parcel of our present; both their audiovisual language and the interaction
processes associated with them have worked their way into our everyday lives. Yet without space, there
is no place at which, in which or even based on which a game can take place. Similarly, the specific space
of a game is bred from the act of playing, from the gameplay itself. The digital spaces so often frequented
by gamers have changed and are changing our notion of space and time, just as film and television did
in the 20th century.
But games go even further: with the spread of the Internet, online role-playing games emerged
that often have less to do with winning and losing and more to do with the cultivation of social communities and human networks that are actually extended into “real” life. Equipped with wireless technologies
and GPS capacities, computer games have abandoned their original location – the stationary computer
– and made their way into physical space as mobile and pervasive applications. So-called “Alternate
Reality Games” cross-medially blend together the Internet, public phone booths and physical places and
conventions in order to create an alternative, ludic reality. The spaces of computer games range from
two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional spaces to complex constructions of social communities to new conceptions of, applications for and interactions between existent physical spaces.
In his 1941 book Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition, Siegfried
Giedion puts modern architecture and its typologies in their social and chronological context. Today, we
again face the development of new typologies of space – spaces that are emerging from the superimposition of the physical and the virtual. The spaces of the digital games that constitute themselves through
the convergence of “space,” “time” and “play” are only the beginning.
What are the parameters of these new spaces? To what practices and functional specifications
do they give rise? What design strategies will come into operation because of them?
In Space Time Play, authors with wholly different professional backgrounds try to provide
answers to these questions. Practitioners and theorists of architecture and urban planning as well as of
game design and game studies have contributed to the collection. The over 180 articles come in various
forms; in essays, short statements, interviews, descriptions of innovative projects and critical reviews of
commercial games, the synergies between computer games, architecture and urbanism are reflected
upon from diverse perspectives.

11


Introduction

Space Time Play contains five levels that – played on their own or in sequence – train a variety of skills
and address a range of issues:
The first level,

THE ARCHITECTURE OF COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAMES,

traces a short, spatiotemporal

history of the architecture of digital games. Here, architects are interested in the question of what spatial
qualities and characteristics arise from computer games and what implications these could have for contemporary architecture. For game designers and researchers, on the other hand, it’s about determining
what game elements constitute space and which spatial attributes give rise to specific types of interaction. Moreover, it’s not just about the gamespaces in the computer, but about the places where the games
are actually played; playing on a living-room TV is different from playing in front of a PC, which, in turn,
is different from playing in a bar.
Many computer games draw spatial inspiration from physical architecture. Like in a film,
certain places and configurations are favored and retroactively shape our perceptions. Computer game
players also experience physical space differently and thus use it differently. Newer input possibilities
like gesture and substantial physical movement are making this hybridization of virtual and real space
available for the mass market, thereby posing new questions to game designers and bringing the disciplines of built and imagined spaces closer together. Computer game design is thus not just about the
“Rules of Play” anymore, but also about the “Rules of Place.”
In the second level,

MAKE BELIEVE URBANISM,

the focus of the texts is shifted to the social

cohesion of game-generated spaces – that is, to the ludic constructions of digital metropolises – and
the question of how such “community spaces” are produced and presented. At the same time, the
central topic of this level is the tension between the representation of the city in games and the city
as metaphor for the virtual spatialization of social relations. How can sociability across space-time
be established, and how will identity be “played out” there? The communities emerging in games,
after all, constitute not only parallel cultures and economies, but also previews of the public spaces
of the future.
The third level,

UBI QUITOUS GAMES,

on the other hand, demonstrates how real space – be it a

building, city or landscape – changes and expands when it is metamorphosed into a “game board” or
“place to play” by means of new technologies and creative game concepts. Here, a new dimension of the

12

SPACE TIME PLAY


notion and use of the city becomes conceivable, one which has the potential to permanently change the
composition of future cities. What happens when the spaces and social interactions of computer games
are superimposed over physical space? What new forms and control systems of city, architecture and
landscape become possible?
The migration of computer games onto the street – that is, the integration of physical spaces
into game systems – creates new localities; games intervene in existent spaces. Game designers are
thereby made aware of their social responsibility. Ubiquitous games fulfill not only the utopian dreams
of the Situationists, but also the early 1990s computer-science vision of a “magicization” of the world.
As in simulacra, the borders of the “magic circle” coined by Johan Huizinga blur, and the result is
ludic unification.
In the fourth level, SERIOUS FUN, the extent to which games and game elements also have serious uses – namely, as tools for design and planning processes – is examined through examples from
architecture and city planning. The articles in this level demonstrate how the ludic conquest of real and
imagined gamespace becomes an instrument for the design of space-time. For the playing of cities can
affect the lived environment and its occupants just as the building of houses can. In this sense, playing is
a serious medium that will increasingly form part of the urban planner’s repertory and will open up new
prospects for participation. Play cannot replace seriousness, but it can help it along.
The concluding fifth level,

FAITES VOS JEUX,

critically reflects upon the cultural relevance

of games today and in the future. Which gamespaces are desirable and which are not? Which ones
should we expect? Life as computer-supported game? War as game? The possibilities range from lived
dreams to advertisements in gamespaces to the destruction of cities in games and in today’s reality of
war and terrorism.
What is the “next level” of architecture and game design? Both these creative worlds could
benefit from a mutual exchange: by emulating the complex conceptions of space and design possibilities
of the former and by using the expertise, interaction, immersion and spatial fun of the latter.
Game designers and architects can forge the future of ludic space-time as a new form of interactive
space, and they can do so in both virtual gamespaces and physical, architectural spaces; this is the “next
level” of Space Time Play.

13


THE
ARCHITECTURE OF
COMPUTER
AND VIDEO GAMES


A SHORT SPACETIME HISTORY
OF INTERACTIVE
ENTERTAINMENT
Level

1


Essay

Text
Andreas Lange

PLACES TO PLAY
What Game Settings Can Tell Us about Games
Increasingly, computer-generated virtual spaces are important elements of everyday life, and computer games are doubtless their most popular manifestations.
When these are well designed, users tend to forget that they reside not in an airless
void, but are instead surrounded by physical space. The physically existent space
is the context for which these games were more or less explicitly created and in
which they are played. If this fact is ignored, we fail to do justice to the medium
of the computer game and to the concrete playing situation. For players and their
bodies are indissolubly connected to the physical plane even if their minds are overwhelmingly oriented during playtime to virtual space. By using selected examples,
I attempt here to demonstrate the intimate connection between these two planes of
reality and, in the process, to provide a brief historical overview of the development
of the computer game as a medium.
Computer games first saw the light of day in the realm of research science at a
time when existing computers were as yet incapable of generating virtual spaces. Back
then, the spaces constituted by computers were primarily physical and real in nature,
a circumstance owing to their considerable bulk and open manner of construction.
Active in these large computers during periods of operation (which were never,
as a rule, interrupted) were operators who shuttled ceaselessly between the individual structural members in order to engage in programming, identify errors, replace tubes or control cooling. Only experienced specialists were able, on the basis
of a few small lights, to recognize the emerging harbingers of a virtual reality that
has today become so complex and painstakingly detailed. And it was precisely such
specialists, the architects of the first computers, who recognized and investigated
the potential of computer games right from the start: in 1942, on the basis of a chess
program, Konrad Zuse demonstrated the strength of his programming language
“Plankalkül”; in 1947, Alan Turing developed a chess program, which he processed
in his own mind, in order to test its capabilities in matches against opponents; and
in 1950, Claude Shannon authored a 12-page article entitled “Programming a Computer for Playing Chess” (Shannon 1950).
In all three above-named cases, it was the space of the research laboratory that
was crucial in the construction of the program, for it was not a question of entertainment, but instead of research. In the introduction to his article, for example,
Shannon wrote: “Although perhaps of no practical importance, the question [of
whether a computer can be taught to play chess] is of theoretical interest, and it is
hoped that a satisfactory solution of this problem will act as a wedge in attacking
other problems of a similar nature and of greater significance” (ibid.).

16

SPACE TIME PLAY


Interestingly enough, these aspects of greater significance specified by Shannon
already constitute the fundamental conditions of possibility for generating virtual
worlds as we know them today. Among other things, he mentions “Machines for
performing symbolic (nonnumerical) mathematical operations. Machines capable
of translating from one language to another. Machines for making strategic decisions in simplified military operations. Machines capable of orchestrating a melody.
Machines capable of logical deduction” (ibid.).
We fast forward now to the early 1960s. Computers have become smaller and
perform better, but nonetheless remain accessible to only a small number of specialists. We find ourselves in the “Tech Model Railroad Club” at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where primarily younger scientists are active. The clubrooms are located
on the campus of an educational facility, but are clearly marked by an entertainment
context. Here, we experience the birth of the first “genuine” computer game, one
that still meets today’s criteria. A group of young scientists who met through the
“Tech Model Railroad Club” have access to a PDP 1 computer manufactured by the
D.E.C. firm, one of the first whose monitor is provided with graphic capabilities – and
which hence fulfils one of the essential technical preconditions for today’s virtual
worlds. On the initiative of Steve Russel, they spend their free time, with no special
research contract, programming Spacewar! (1962), a virtual outer space setting within
which two spaceships, each controlled by one player, face off against one another.
The game is a big hit right from the beginning, and it spreads like wildfire through
the American university landscape to every point where a PDP 1 computer is present. This circumstance, however, can only be really explained by considering the
real space surrounding the players. For computers continue to be highly expensive
rarities, and hence accessible only to specialists. They are not designed to be played
with simply for fun, and this necessarily leads to conflict. This is also the motive for
the invention of the first game joysticks: they make it possible for players to avoid
damaging keyboards while playing Spacewar! (Graetz 1981).
A straight line leads from Spacewar! and the MIT “Tech Model Railroad Club”
to the real space of the video arcade, the locale where computer games became
commercially established. One of the students who had enjoyed playing Spacewar!
during his MIT years was Nolan Bushnell, later a founder of Atari. His automated
version of Spacewar!, produced in 1971 by the American video game manufacturer
Nutting Associates and dubbed Computer Space, was conceived for the video arcade.
The fact that the commercial birth of the computer game took place in a public space
had exclusively economic reasons. The then only recently developed integrated
circuits (ICs) were still too expensive to allow such consoles to be marketed directly
to end users. And although Computer Space (1971) experienced only sluggish sales,
Bushnell’s business model met with success just a year later with the Atari PONG
(1972)

machines. In just a few months, video game machines had developed into one

of the most lucrative businesses and would remain so right into the 1980s. But the
physical space of the video arcade not only made possible the commercialization
of the computer game, it also influenced the appearance of the early blockbusters. The high score list, introduced for the first time in 1978 in Space Invaders, not
only offered players an identity going beyond the actual activity of playing, but also

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17


Essay

PLACES TO PLAY

provided them with an incentive to leave behind their visiting cards as players in the
real space of the arcade, where they would be noticed by others. Game construction,
too, was determined substantially by this context. It was not extended, epic games
that guaranteed high revenues, but instead numerous brief matches. Players had to
be induced to toss yet another coin into the slot. The game, then, must never be allowed to really come to an end. In one way or another, the narratives games embody
are all variations on the Sisyphus motif, with its tendency toward the interminable.
An additional motivating factor lay in the social situation of the gaming arcade,
where two players would often face off in front of the public.
On another level as well, the video arcade machines had an essential impact
on the medium of the computer game. At least in the German Federal Republic,
the installation of video games in public spaces was forbidden in 1984 by amendments to the Youth Protection Laws. Along with betting machines, they could only
be found from that point onward in locations inaccessible to young people. The new
laws doubtless strengthened the existing image of video games as being somehow
dangerous to young people.
But in the end, it was not the video arcade, but instead another real space that
established itself as the dominant context for games – namely, the private home.
This development goes back to the 1960s. In 1968, the inventor Ralph H. Baer registered a patent in the United States for his “Television Gaming and Training Apparatus.” In it, he describes the functional principle of the home video game console
that was brought onto the market in 1972 by the American firm Magnavox under the
1>

name Odyssey. 1 In typical advertisements for Odyssey, we see a family playing while

That their price lay
under 100 US Dollars
was made feasible
only by manufacturing
these devices using the
same traditional analog
components found in
all television sets.

gathered around the television set in the living room. The living room as a real
space of play was almost compulsory, since additional television sets were rarely
found in children’s bedrooms at that time. Perceptions of the home video game as
a toy for children rather than for adults were associated with an additional technical revolution, one that established a new location for playing: the work or hobby
room. Beginning in 1977, a mass production of new ICs had progressed so far that
an entire computer could fit comfortably onto a writing desk, making it possible to
market home computers to private individuals. The triumph of the home computer
had begun. Thanks to market competition and the falling prices associated with it,
home computers such as the C64 were widely disseminated during the 1980s and
were frequently used to play games. These developments were also decisive for the
appearance of these games. Since an ongoing game could be stored at any moment
and resumed later on, games of epic length emerged whose virtual worlds grew
larger and more complex than those found in video arcades or in the home video
game consoles that succeeded gaming machines.
Already in preparation at this time was the networking of home computers,
which then not only provided the playing field, but could also access virtual realities
that were generated somewhere beyond the physical surroundings of the player.
As distinct from home computers, which had generally been reserved for adults,
home video games drifted increasingly into children’s bedrooms during the 1980s.
This development was made possible by the growing prevalence of second and
third television sets in private homes, and it experienced powerful reinforcement

18

SPACE TIME PLAY


via the strategies of the at-the-time market leader Nintendo, which marketed its
NES console primarily as a game.
For our final real space of play, we now enter another public arena, one that
succeeded the video arcade, and one which, unlike the latter, is not fixed in space,
not clearly localizable. Already by the mid-1970s

(Football 1976),

manufacturers had

succeeded in establishing a market for mobile pocket video games. Along with
their relatively low prices, their in principle unlimited accessibility spoke strongly
in their favor. During the past two decades, we have heard a lot about a “Game Boy
generation,” referring to young people who have grown up with video games. A
decisive turn was taken by mobile games when they were successfully networked
in recent years. Fusion with GPS-capable mobile telephones in particular created a
fundamentally new space of play. With so-called “pervasive games,” the real space
surrounding the player becomes a component of the virtual playing space. Highly
conspicuous in comparison to the examples presented above is the interpenetration
of real and virtual spaces.
Games have always followed people wherever they have lived, and it seems
as though the act of playing necessarily does so as well. In this respect, computer
games are indistinguishable from other games. The fact that they generate complex
virtual spaces ought not to distract us from the fact that every player finds him or
herself simultaneously in a world of play and in the real world.

Computer Space (1971), developed and published by Nutting Associates. Football (1976), developed and published by Mattel Graetz, J.M. (1981), “The Origins of Spacewar!”, Creative Computing,
August 1981. PONG (1972), developed and published by Atari. Shannon, C. (1950), “Programming
a Computer for Playing Chess,” Philosophical Magazine, ser.7, vol. 41, no. 314, March 1950. Spacewar! (1962), developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1 | THE ARCHITECTURE OF COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAMES

19


Game Review

Text

Developer

Publisher

Gillian Andrews

Konami

Konami, 1998

DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION
Taking Back Arcade Space
Dance Dance Revolution (or
DDR) is the best known of a
series of rhythm games first
marketed by Konami in Asia
in the late 1990s. Similar titles from other publishers
include Pump It Up (Andamiro
1999) , In The Groove (Roxor
Games 2004) , and Para Para Paradise (Konami 2000) . In these
games, the controller is enlarged to monstrous size, allowing play by “dancing” on a “stage” with inset buttons.
The goal in DDR is to step on the correct buttons in time with
music, indicated by arrows rising to hit targets at the top of the screen.
While the arrows roll over swirling day-glo graphics, dancing anime avatars and music videos, the graphics are little more than a distraction. In
dance games, the images on-screen are mere window dressing. Dance
games take the space of play out of the machine, returning it to the
realm of physical space. Play is writ large on the entire body, not just
the avatar and the frantic movement of players’ thumbs.
To date, no other post-PONG arcade genre has been as revolutionary in terms of space. Before PONG (Atari 1972), arcades often
had a number of highly physical games: skeeball, whack-a-mole, shoot
hoops to win a teddy bear. And certainly, arcades have long had digital games in which players use nontraditional controllers: “punching”
opponents, riding motorcycles or shooting guns. But DDR represents a
20

SPACE TIME PLAY


www.musicineverydirection.com

much more dramatic expansion of the physical in digital arcade games.
The game frees up the player’s head, arms and torso for a nearly full
range of movement. The only obligation players have is pressing the buttons in time.
Players take advantage of this freedom in creative ways, incorporating spins, dropping to their knees or even leaping over the safety bar for a grand entrance. Some players leave stage in the middle of
the song to flirt or “take a phone call” for comic effect. On the website
DDRFreak.com, one commenter recalls a player who left the arcade and
ran all the way across the street in the middle of his performance, returning in time for the next step after a break in the music.
The old arcade pastime of cheering local pros on as they pound
their way to a high score takes a new shape: now, instead of clustering
close to scrutinize the screen, the audience can follow gameplay from
across the room. Arcade owners sometimes rearrange their space to accommodate DDR’s exuberant overflow, leaving extra room around the machine or moving it to a more visible location to attract business. In Asia,
dance games have grown far larger than the arcade: at the peak of the
game’s popularity, DDR competitions were sometimes held in stadiums.
Dance Dance Revolution (US title) was released
in Europe under the title Dancing Stage.

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21


Project Description

Text

Project

Affiliation

Florian “Floyd” Müller

Florian “Floyd” Müller,
Stefan Agamanolis

Human Connectedness
Group, Media Lab Europe,
Dublin, IE, MIT Media
Lab, Cambridge, US, 2003

BREAKOUT FOR TWO
Connecting Cities via Distributed Physical Activity

Breakout for Two is a cross between soccer and the pop- networked to support players in different spaces, alular arcade game Breakout (Atari 1976). Each of two

lowing them to experience shared gameplay as part

players, who can be miles distant from his/her partner,

of the urban environment. We envision setting games

kicks a ball against a local, physical wall. On each wall
is a projection of the remote player, enabling the partic-

such as Breakout for Two in public places with socializ-

ipants to interact with each other through a life-sized

cial interaction with players from sister cities, in which

ing opportunities, allowing inhabitants to engage in so-

videoconference. Players feel as though they are sepa-

the game provides something to do and to talk about.
rated by a glass window that splits the field into two We believe the physical sporting game Breakout for
parts. They still hit the ball towards the other player, Two can enrich the link between sister cities by probut it bounces off the wall and is returned. Eight semi- viding inhabitants with a direct personal experience,
transparent blocks are overlaid on the video stream, facilitating a sense of shared space and supporting
and each player has to strike them in order to score. social connectedness between the remote players.
These virtual blocks are connected over the network,
which means they are shared between locations. If one

Thanks to Media Lab Europe and MIT, especially
Stefan Agamanolis, Roz Picard and Ted Selker.

player strikes any of them once, it cracks. On the third
hit, the block breaks and disappears. Only then does
the player receive a point. This scoring theme makes
for a challenging game element because it enables
each player to watch what the other one is doing, waiting for her/him to hit a block for the second time and
then snatching the point by hitting it for the third and
final time. The harder the player hits a block, however,
the more it cracks, so a player can also choose to crack
the blocks more quickly through really hard hits.
Physical games such as soccer are known to be social
facilitators and icebreakers. They can support social
exchange between players who have never met before
and who might otherwise never meet at all, if they are

22

SPACE TIME PLAY


http://exertioninterfaces.com

1 | THE ARCHITECTURE OF COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAMES

23


Game Review

Text

Developer

Publisher

Heather Kelley

Nintendo

Nintendo, 2006

Wii SPORTS
Breaking the Fourth Wall
Released in 2006 to both acclaim and speculation, Nintendo’s Wii game console
attempts to leapfrog its nextgen competitors with its intuitive control device, the wireless “Wii Remote,” which
resembles a smallish, simplified television remote in
shape and size. The Remote
is a pointing device that can
also detect movement on
multiple axes. This innovative controller represents the
heart of Nintendo’s strategy
to reach beyond the known
market of “core” gamers and
appeal to a wider population
of potential players, including families, women and seniors.
Wii Sports is Nintendo’s premiere launch title for the Wii; it is
shipped in the box along with the Wii hardware. The game offers five
popular athletic sports – bowling, tennis, golf, boxing and baseball – all
playable using the natural and characteristic gestures required by each
sport: swinging a bat, punching a boxing glove and so on. As such, the
game could be considered the earliest expression of Nintendo’s vision
for interactive entertainment: it is approachable, sociable and places a
higher value on play accessibility than on graphic resolution.
24

SPACE TIME PLAY


http://wii.com

One of the most innovative spatial aspects of the Wii, evident throughout Wii
Sports, is the speaker located inside the Wii Remote. As a feedback channel, sound naturally supports our perceptions of what is physical and hence
“real.” In Wii Sports, the effect is subtle but undeniable: players can hear the
results of their physical actions at the location of that action. The controller
can’t offer tactile resistance for physical actions (such as the impact of striking a baseball with a heavy bat), but the audio helps fill these gaps of believability and controllability. When serving the ball in Wii Tennis, for instance,
players can hear the swishing of their own rackets and time their swings to
generate power serves.
While naturalistic gestures such as full-ranged golf swings and
bowling ball throws are not absolutely required to play the game, they
are supported by the game and constitute a large part of the game’s fun –
even in the cramped quarters of a typical living space. But the way
Wii Sports encourages players to use their full range of motion and
strength is not without its drawbacks. Perhaps nothing is more indicative of the boundary-crossing “real world feel” of Wii Sports than the
reports that began appearing on the Internet soon after the launch
date, according to which players around the world were accidentally destroying television screens and causing other living room accidents when making enthusiastic physical gestures during play. Within weeks, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata admitted, “Some people
are getting a lot more excited than we’d expected. We need to better
communicate to people how to deal with Wii as a new form of entertainment.” The early days of the Wii will be remembered as those in
which the “fourth wall” of video gaming was truly, and sometimes literally, broken.
1 | THE ARCHITECTURE OF COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAMES

25


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