Genius Loci

By Rob Dwiar

A grand tour of video game landscapes and gardens

Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Of Rivers and Red Dead

With spring well and truly sprung, and being outdoors pleasant once more, I’ve been making some parallels between games and places, or landscape features, again. 

And, as the heading intimates, this one has come from looking at rivers or riverscapes; something that can range from the quietly functional, and peaceful, all the way up to the truly spectacular. 

The former comes from a regular spot my family meets up on the Thames. We’ve been meeting up at a nice place on the river and in Sonning (outside of Reading) for a while now, and always get a walk in along the river after having lunch. It’s a quiet area in terms of river traffic, and despite there being a proper Lock there (a self-service one that has a resident manager) we’ve never seen much activity. Instead, it’s a quiet riverscape that meanders gently in both directions, allowing for walks along its adjoining lands, and its flora and fauna. A quintessential English river scene, you might say, with echoes of Moley and Ratty...

Then, the other end of the scale has come to me after finally (finally) playing Red Dead Redemption 2 - a game some of you might be surprised I haven’t played yet. I know, I know, it’s a beautiful game with a world so detailed and lovingly crafted it would look at home on postcards, and in art galleries - but for some reason/s I just hadn’t got to it yet, or was hoping a newer version might get released. Anyway, I always knew it would be a game I’d love - from the bits I’d seen and heard, and from the story and adventure, to the landscape, and the world. And, lo and behold, only a few hours I knew this - and in the context of this particular update, I found myself gravitating toward the glorious Dakota River and just riding my horse along it finding places to take pictures and just watch the virtual landscape go by… And I know that I haven’t even nearly found the most dramatic riverscapes at all yet! I'm in for a treat (and, by extension, that means you probably are too!).

This a parallel between two very different places of course, but the fact that being in one reminded me of the other - and vice versa - shows the imprint both physical and virtual landscapes and places can leave with us, and the connections we can then draw between the two. Particularly considering how rivers help to make and shape landscapes literally, but also their place in vistas, and the interaction between land and water at their edges - there's so much to appreciate and get stuck into.

And, you guessed it, this is something I cannot wait to put into black and white in Genius Loci - so thank you again for your support, and keep spreading the word!

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