Games today, with advancements in graphic design and capability of the platforms on which they can be played, are almost akin to interactive films- in which the player not only consumes the movie-like storyline, but becomes an active participant in the narrative and its outcomes. Worldbuilding in video games has strong connections with the approaches contained in semiotics, as it is not with the images on the screen that players interact, but rather the world that is represented by the images.
I intend to examine Tokyo as a virtually constructed game world in three separate texts – Atlus Studios’ Persona 5, Sega’s Yakuza series and Square Enix’s The World Ends with You. The fictionally created cityscapes of contemporary Japan have become ideal spaces for the video games to propagate, their construction in the texts can be seen a form of techno-orientalism that is simultaneously rooted in both Eastern and Western imagination. Each of these texts constructs its own version of Tokyo that, while being recognisable through the use of specific semiotic markers, is also sufficiently different enough to make it a virtual, unreal, space. However, what must be noted is that this space only exists in its entirety when it is interacted upon by the player.
Using Lefebvre’s conceptualisation of social space into spatial practice, representations of space and representational space, this paper seeks to look at how the construction of the digital city is not merely a 3D representation thereof, but points where interactivity and narrative coincide. It is through the locus of these two elements that the player comprehends and navigates game narratives.
My purpose will therefore be to look at the constructions of Tokyo within video games as data visualisations of spaces that become places through interactivity and comprehension of the player.
Lakshmi Menon is Assistant Professor of English at VTM NSS College, Trivandrum, and a PhD candidate at the Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, where her thesis is a study of Harry Potter slash fanfiction and fan communities. She is currently researching Boys Love fan cultures in South Asia, while her wider research interests also include digital humanities, popular culture and queer literature.
Unreal City: Expressions of Tokyo in Video Games – Lakshmi Menon