Being There: Historic City as a Virtual Playground

The relationship between the novel and the city has entire college courses dedicated to it and cultural policymakers aiming to promote their cities can often be found to turn to authors and filmmakers to champion their causes. Even the once lowly comic books are being drafted to the cause of sharing urban histories due to the increasing recognition of their unique ability to offer an intimate narrative.

However, video games, despite being the fastest growing form of entertainment, rarely enter into this discussion, even though the field of video game studies is burgeoning in many universities across the globe.

During my presentation at the Imagining Istanbul Workshop, held on May 17 2013, I discussed the potential contribution of video games in sharing and promoting the image of a historical city. Taking the series Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft Studios, 2007-2013), which frames its narrative through different cities across historical periods, as an example, I discussed the unique potential of video games in presenting the historical city as a navigable space. The intellectual framework, and the primary inspiration for this presentation was a 2004 article by Henry Jenkins titled “Game Design as Narrative Architecture“.
Highlighting the importance of spatial construction to both the creation of narrative immersion and player agency, Jenkins argues that game designers should be understood “less as storytellers and more as narrative architects”.

AC Ist

Game designers don’t simply tell stories; they design worlds and sculpt spaces.

As the exploration of space takes the primary mechanic through which the audience interacts with the narrative structure of the game, video games are uniquely able to project the sense of presence and present a multitude of opportunities to explore cityscapes and their histories.

While such an understanding of games and their interaction of spaces are not foreign to game designers or scholars of the field, as part of the mission of Imagining Istanbul workshop, I aimed to cultivate a broader appreciation of the possibilities inherent within the medium and the lively following the session filled me with hope that the event was a success.