Video Games and the Mental Map

This is really just a blippy thing.

There is a new tumblr called Mapstalgia that invites readers to submit maps of video games drawn from memory. That sounds pretty boring, but it is actually really amazing. Most of the maps and games that have been posted so far are of games that are five or ten years old (or older), which means that these maps are imprinted, permanently, in the minds of the people who are submitting them. The experience of the video game, the phenomenological experience of playing it, gets imprinted on the player. Tom Bissell, in Extra Lives, writes about how he was able to navigate London based on his playing The Getaway, a game that takes place in an exact recreation of a little bit of London.

This mapping, and memorization, takes place automatically (mostly). It is repetition, and normally it is repetition through fun and game design–you either play it so much you remember it automatically, or the game makes you run through the area so many times that it becomes second nature.

There aren’t a lot of games I could do this for. I could definitely do it with Grand Theft Auto III, which gives you an idea of how much I played that game. In any case, a submission to the site had this comment attached:

This is my first attempt at reproducing the entirety of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow’s map from memory. It was drawn on a large sheet of paper using graphite and a colored pencil. My attempt to be as exact as possible highlights the errors moreso, but I think that the errors are the most interesting part. As one example: in the bottom-middle, a little line connects two rooms in the Subterranean Hell sector. The line represents an intended linking that I could not complete. Another example: on the top right, you can see an erased horizontal space that links two towers. This was the correct placement. The final, second-guessed version is incorrect. In any case, was surprised by my relative accuracy. The last time that I played Dawn of Sorrow was a little less than a year ago. I should also note that, rather than mentally consulting the image of the game’s map, I drew this map according to the actual rooms in the game. Put another way, I imaginatively played the game at high speed, and used that to generate the map. (X)

The bolding is mine, of course. There is something amazing to me about being able to mentally play a game and how profoundly games have to impact and affect us in order to initialize that experience in us. There are very few other things that automatically encode us to remember and memorize them–the only thing I can think of right now is intense trauma.

That said, I can remember every single little detail of the first map in Super Mario Brothers.

In any case, go look at some of the maps. I like this one for Sonic Adventure 2.



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2 Responses to Video Games and the Mental Map

  1. Pingback: On Rise of the Planet of the Apes (part 2) | this cage is worms

  2. Excellent article. I certainly love this site. Continue the good work!

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