Genius Loci

By Rob Dwiar

A grand tour of video game landscapes and gardens

Friday, 28 October 2022

Mediterranean landscapes and Med-inspired game places...

Despite having a deep love for it, it had been a while since I was in a Mediterranean landscape. Until the end of last month anyway, when a family wedding took us to the Greek island of Paxos.

Blue skies, crystal clear waters, a beating sun, scrub-covered rocks, and olive trees galore. All present and accounted for and it was beautiful. It was the idyllic kind of Mediterranean landscape that I had previously seen in books and felt I was born in the wrong place! landscapes.

But it was in the properly rustic, dry, and unkept landscapes that I felt the most magic and could draw even more direct lines between games and real landscapes.

The wedding itself was lovely (thanks Seb and Katie) of course and it too took place in such a landscape, providing a rough-around-the-edges but beautiful natural backdrop to a special moment in time - a snapshot experience and moment, much like a breathtaking vista or journey across those similar Med-inspired game places that will feature in Genius Loci.

Of course, as soon as I was in a rustic grove of olive trees, I was immediately transported to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and also The Witcher 3. The latter formed part of a Eurogamer essay of mine on the use of Summer in games and which trees and plants game developers seem to gravitate toward (in my view). The olive tree is so central to summery and Med-inspired landscapes in games, and I can’t wait to dig deeper to find out what other plants and styles game devs reach for in a similar way when I begin writing Genius Loci.

With an updated version of The Witcher 3 coming soon enabling me to experience views and places like the above all over again, a recent release is proving a fine example of a game I’ve not written about before but one that I am earmarking for inclusion in the book. A Plague Tale: Requiem takes place in the Provence region of France, and quickly thrusts you into a beautiful, scrubby, rocky Med landscape. (Before things take an equally quick turn for the dark and the bleak…) 

I know there’s real-world demand to recreate, praise, and enjoy these kinds of landscapes too: the garden designer James Basson has exhibited several gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the vain of a rustic Provence and Mediterranean style. The effect is quite striking; there are oddly shaped olive trees, dry and dusty soil, uneven rock walls, and fragrant plants like lavender and rosemary thriving.

All of this forms just another series of lines to connect games and landscapes, and a series of investigations and appraisals that I can’t wait to get stuck into properly in Genius Loci. Landscapes inspire gardens; landscapes inspire gardens and places; and landscapes inspire game places and environments. And all inspire Genius Loci.

Keep sharing, and keep the interest going! As always, thanks so much for the support.


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