The Players’ Dimension: From Virtual to Physical

The Players’ Dimension: From Virtual to Physical

Michael Nitsche (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-854-5.ch012
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Abstract

This chapter outlines three positions in the development of game spaces from the ideal of the perfect mindspace to the commercial reality of virtual worlds to the expansion of the game world into the physical environment into a hybrid space. The third position will be investigated further as the argument looks into peculiarities of the evolving hybrid space that result from the combination of changes to the physical through the fictional space. This continues the ongoing dissolution of the magic circle’s boundaries and illustrates how fictional worlds expand into even non-game locations. Building on Popper’s system of the 3 worlds, it is suggested that today’s fictional game worlds have already changed our physical environments. In that, it partially closes the argument back to the earliest dreams of cyberspace but arrives not at a new mindspace to “log in” but instead at a new physical space in need of re-evaluation.
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Cyberspace

Ever since the early days of digital media, visionaries saw them as a new accessible space and a world to explore. Howard Rheingold hoped that cyberspace may be “a new laboratory of the spirit” (Rheingold, 1991). Supporting the idea of the “spirit world” Barlow claimed “[o]urs is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live. We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth” (Barlow, 1996). Reflected in these positions we see the visions of Gibson and other visionaries as they popularized that mix of Science Fiction and technological origins that came together to seed “cyberspace.” But it had to be a mainly futuristic forward-looking perspective.

Gibson's work, and the Cyberpunk genre in general, have principally served to excite interest in newly developing interactive computer systems. In a social order whose economic and technological rationale still seems centered on a Marinettian notion of progress - where 'progress is right, even when it's wrong' - the lack of address to the cautionary aspects of the genre is perhaps understandable. It is not surprising that a society preoccupied with technology and consumerism can more readily grasp the potential pleasures of new media rather than predictions of the social decay they might cause. Whatever Gibson's (best) intentions, his work has created a desire for cyberspace technologies in advance of their production. Their current unavailability thereby renders them objects of desire par excellence for a high-tech consumer culture untroubled by vague speculations as to their dystopian potential. (Hayward, 1993)

Inspired by the promise of the new digital technology and its usage, the prophets of cyberspace called for a new kind of space, defined by a new society, somehow stepping beyond the problems of the flesh, at times stepping beyond the biological altogether (Moravec, 1988). These were places to “log in” to a higher level of cyber-enhanced consciousness and “drop out” of reality with its social, economic, and political flaws.

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