In Focus: Dunwall

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

This is the first in a set of updates that focus in on some of the iconic virtual cities that will feature in The Continuous City, and how they have been photographed to reveal them in a new light.

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Dunwall is the first name that comes to my mind when I think of videogame cities. Not because it represents them as a whole, or is some kind of median point among these virtual urban spaces, but because it shows their huge potential

Despite only being shown in a handful of small levels, each a fragment of Dishonored's revenge narrative, Dunwall is multi-faceted, complex, and embedded in a specific history. Layered up level by level, from ancient stone blocks to glinting modern steel, it feels innately familiar to those of us that have grown up in the stratified cities of Europe, expecially London and Edinburgh, its twin inspirations. Because of this it is a joy to photograph, its virtual stones bleeding history into any image you take.

In The Continuous City Dunwall mostly features in the Pathways section, the part of the book's unique typology that focus on the streets, tunnels, roads and lines that lead us into virtual cities. That's in-part due to its heavily directional level design, which seeks to illuminate the different routes that players can take through its tightly woven streets. But it's also, puposefully or not, something which also feels connected to the city's real world inspirations. As organically planned, non-gridded pieces of urban planning, Edinburgh and London are both multi-layered, directional cities. Drop down at a random point in their central districts and a direction will always be suggested to you, as much by the strata of bricks as the grouping of landmarks. Dunwall is the same, it is a place of suggestive paths and secretive shortcuts.

But, more so than wandering aimlessly in the streets of London, these paths are always sure to lead somewhere. Dunwall, as it exists in Dishonored, is a city distilled down to its core—its central themes of inequality, the occult, and totalitarianism are displayed prominently in every street, whether in squalor beside riches, or arcane rituals taking place among social decay. To photograph it is to capture these themes, sometimes obliquely, sometimes head-on. Its streets are simply the vehicle for these ideas, as T. S. Eliot puts it in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock these are "Streets that follow like a tedious argument / Of insidious intent". That tedium is not one of boredom, but of being led along, and becoming lost, in a city that seems to stretch much further than the limited virtual world that represents it.

In the end, that's my ultimate aim with these photographs, to capture this city of pathways, yes, but also to capture the memories, imagined worlds, and daydreams towards which these streets seem to forever lead us.

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More updates on the cities that will be broken down across the sections of the book will follow in the coming weeks, so make sure to follow the campiagn or pledge above to keep in touch.

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