In computer games, like perspective paintings, you can't literally enter
the space. You can only move into the space with your eyes. But unlike
perspective painting you are also able to turn within the imaginative
space and move around corners.
What in painting is out of limits, because of the frontal organization
of the perspective structure, is (though perhaps already hinted at in
cubism) accessible in a computer games. (Different also from film since
we control, to a greater extent, the manner in which we enter the space).
The question then arises: what does this add to our experience of form
Though computer games start to imitate action films, does this not undermine
and even break up the hypnotic power of this forever turning and wending,
and the sense of becoming more and more inextricably caught up in the
Computer games produce a new kind of image structure: one based on calculations,
and where narratives evolve through the image within a set of parameters
where the particular route it will take isn't predictable in advance.
There is rather a field of if/then clauses, all interlinked.
The player is free to the extent that he can move back and forth and
from side to side, but he is not free to move out of this mesh of clauses.
This is in his own interest because beyond this, the space breaks down,
and there is only chaotic seeming code.
Where in perspective painting there is (though perhaps not clearly)
a relationship of subject to object, computer games seem to merge these
terms in unexpected ways.
The first person perspective is strangely disorientating. Until you
are well conditioned to this point of view there is a sense of being
pressed up too closely to reality, like having ones face pressed against
This is probably due to the stiffness of the controls with the current
state of this technology. One alternative is to have a character that
runs before you in the virtual world, and which you control as if it
represents you; with the alarming consequence that when you suddenly
turn your character to run back in the opposite direction, the character
presumed to be yourself (perhaps) is suddenly running towards you, past
you, until your point of view catches up, and you take up the subjectively
more acceptable position of being just behind (like the camera in the
recent Belgian film Rosetta which hangs just behind Rosetta's shoulder
and seems to describe a trailing conscience, suddenly confronted when
she lurches back - I, you, he/she merge in curious ways.
Also (psychologically) confusing are games where you are operating a
number of characters. This normally means you are specifically controlling
one figure while the others trail behind, but at certain moments it's
possible to jump to one of the trailing figures, so that now this one
takes the lead.
like perspective painting computer games are constructed out of architecture.
(Nature must be put into this construction as if it were architecture).
This architecture describes a space receding toward its vanishing point.
When you are moving through computer space the vanishing point is constantly
deferred. Nevertheless the sense of being caught inside a web-like construction,
of being dragged toward the vanishing point is still apparent. (Before
certain perspective paintings the viewer has the vertiginous impression
of falling towards the vanishing point.)
As mentioned above, narrative in computer games isn't constructed in
a linear way, but more like a diagram. Linearity and simple narrative
closure reduce the potential complexity of the space which seems to
be more like a space for wandering. Caught within a system of more or
less apparent passages, the player comes to terms with a space constructed
from calculations which, unlike in perspective paintings now completely
12 December 2000