Genius Loci

By Rob Dwiar

A grand tour of video game landscapes and gardens

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Druidic landscape character

Autumn is well and truly here now, isn’t it? It’s been a pretty grim week here in the West Country, and my reward for starting my regular days in the office last week was one of the wettest walks home in my life. Thanks, weather. However, this just marks the turning of the seasonal wheels once more, and summer feels far away already.

Just before summer did finally leave us, my wife and I, and Bella the lab, made a trip to Stonehenge. While the main monument is indeed the circular arrangement of stone monoliths - and, indeed, feels quite powerful, and almost spiritual - we took the public footpath route to the site from 3 miles away at Woodhenge (a smaller, more underwhelming henge). But it was doing this walk that made the route through the landscape stand out, emphasisng the significance of a journey across the landscape that people took to get to Stonehenge; the natural landscape providing a genuine sense of approach, entrance and arrival. Because of this, the route we took offers even more sense of place (there’s the Genius Loci again), I feel - and much more so than taking the more tourist-facing route. But in what is largely an unspectacular landscape, Stonehenge does indeed have a powerful atmosphere and sense of place; of course, there’s deep, deep history here, but also an element of druidic spituralism, wonder, and mystery, and that journey and approach that I felt, that would have been used and felt by people thousands of years ago… It’s these kinds of landscape characteristics and features that appear in our real world that I intend to translate to the ones we find in games in Genius Loci, and I can’t wait to explore that, and take deep dives into some similarly powerful virtual places.

My last update referenced how timely a visit to Ireland was in terms of mirroring the game I was playing at the time, and this visit to Stonehenge fitted the exact same bill. The same recent adventures in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla also ensured my real-world trip to Stonehenge was mirrored in-game: the henge appears as a landscape marker, monument, and puzzle (as part of a collection of puzzles marked by stone circles) in Eivor’s 9th century England. The henge is presented in the game in largely the same state as it is seen today too - given the true age of the stones (some 2,500 years) this makes sense, but the virtual landscape around it in the game was still quietly powerful, though a bit wilder.

In terms of recently playing games, I’m in the process of revisiting the Uncharted trilogy but in their original state on PS3. I tend to go into Replay Mode whenever a new entry in a series or a remake or remaster in a series is coming out in the near-ish future; which is what is happening with the future PS5 and PC release of Uncharted 4 and Lost Legacy coming early next year. These are beautiful games that take place in breathtaking landscapes - even the near-15 year old versions from the PS3 days hold up in this manner too.

I’ll sign off this update now, but not before sharing the fact that there is currently a discount running on the book! If you are aware of folks on the verge of pledging, or could be kind enough to  do a fresh wave of shares, then just let folks know that by putting the code CHELSEA10 in after selecting the pledge level they can save 10% on any pledge (this expires at the end of Monday October 4th, which I realise is the day that many people will see this update!). Thank you in advance if you’re able to do this!

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Sarah Elkins
 Sarah Elkins says:

Thanks for the update -- interesting about the perspective that walking 3 miles there gave you.

posted 8th October 2021

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