By Josh "Dr.Rouge" Vasquez
Giving birth to landscapes
he articulation of movement in cinema is based on the possibilities of a landscape. The most basic (and this in no way implies simple) component of any scene is that of the "physical" universe from within which the shot is composed. The irony is that films are essentially impressions of reality, everything shown on the screen having been broken down into light and then reassembled. Yet even in this world of ghosts there is the haunted memory of something greater. The landscape is ever-present.
Videogames also create worlds into which one peeks. Often there is a narrative to be unfolded and a map to be drawn to enable that narrative to reach a successful conclusion. Yet what of games that do not have a straight narrative to jumpstart the players' interest; it is up to the designers to dedicate themselves solely to the landscape. The world becomes the central focus of the "storyline" which is transformed from a definite plot to an echoing sense of something occurring.
The creators of Wipeout XL, developed by Psygnosis and released by Sony, create this strange sense of unraveling "happenings." The game has no traditional storyline, simply a backdrop, a field through which one moves.
Wipeout is a racing game and therefore the landscape consists of a series of tracks on which sleek rat shaped hover-cars duel. The cinematic section opens on various glimpses of a dark city lit by neon signs, a rainy Asian (based on the text of the signs) industrial light show. The "camera" pans down to rest on a gray track as two cars come racing by, cutting through the raindrops. We follow the race as it progresses, the image occasionally flashing in and out of schematic drawings, computer design blueprints.
The decor, so reminiscent of films like Blade Runner, immediately works on the viewers' genre backlogs. "Science Fiction" flashes in the minds eye as we watch these dark streets explode, blooming with rain sluiced light every time a sign blinks back into existence. The design of the cars, another outgrowth of the environment, recalls the 5lightcycles and any number of anime speed machines.
In Wipeout, the creators use the viewers' genre conventions to help tell a story in which the setting is the main character, a living component. The game, being a non-linear adventure, needs only skillful painting, a landscape...place of stillness to act as midwife to movement.
- Josh "Dr.Rouge" Vasquez is a regular contributor to loonygames.
Credits: Pixel Obscura logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Pixel Obscura is © 1998 Josh Vasquez. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited...we know where you live.