Video games allow us to construct and visit believable imaginary cities, provide us with glimpses of ancient urbanism, and let us immerse ourselves in the wildest utopias and darkest dystopias of our possible futures. They are an unprecedented canvas for experimenting with the urban environment, and an utterly unique medium for experiencing cities both imagined and real in truly immersive ways.
Game urbanist, designer, and writer Konstantinos Dimopoulos, and visual artist Maria Kallikaki have embarked on a virtual journey to explore, catalogue, and map the most spectacular, intriguing, and defining places of this new digital geography.
Virtual Cities: An Atlas & Exploration of Video Game Cities is an ambitious and richly illustrated atlas that is the first detailed attempt to document the deep and exciting history of game cities via a combination of original maps, ink drawings, and insightful commentary and analysis.
Virtual Cities will be a beautiful book meant for lovers of cartography and imaginary worlds, artists, game designers, world builders, and, above all, everyone who plays and cares for video games.
Virtual Cities covers over 40 game cities across literary and gaming genres. Cities spanning almost 40 years of digital history, including detailed entries on Half-Life 2’s City 17, Yakuza’s Kamurocho, Fallout’s New Vegas, Silent Hill, and less well-known cities such as Antescher and Lizard Breath, plus cyberpunk Hong Kong, and voodoo New Orleans among many, many more.
Every city featured in the atlas will be mapped through a combination of traditional and unorthodox cartographic methods including partial reconstruction, and the filling in of essential details, which allow us to visualize the often fragmented, incomplete, and out of scale cities of gaming in a cohesive way. It will also be accompanied by beautiful, subtly coloured ink drawings, and in-depth texts covering its history, design lessons, atmosphere, landmarks, and geography.
About the Book
From metropolitan sci-fi open worlds and medieval fantasy towns, to contemporary cities and glimpses of gothic horror urbanism author and artist will research, map, visualize, and document some of the most iconic, complex and intriguing cities in gaming.
*Book designs and cover are for illustrative purpose and may differ to final design.
There aren't any children in City 17. The dilapidated playgrounds are devoid of life, and will remain so for as long as the all-encompassing Suppression Field keeps on preventing human procreation. And it's not just the playgrounds that stand abandoned either. Many of the city's buildings are crumbling, and even more have been empty husks for years. Despite the soft daylight and long, almost romantic shadows, City 17 is neither a happy nor a vibrant place.
Even pinpointing its exact location is tricky. The direction of the sunlight, and the widespread use of the Cyrillic alphabet suggest Eastern Europe, most probably Bulgaria, yet one can also find a few signs and graffiti in Greek or even Scandinavian. With its exact location remaining a mystery, not much can be known of the place's early history, beside the fact it wasn't always called City 17. The architecture that still stands, itself a monument of better days, allows a simple reconstruction of the city's evolution from the neoclassicism of the 19th Century, to early modernism, to the Soviet functionalism that followed World War 2, to postmodern styles, to a truly alien, cold, and monolithic version of Brutalism.
Following the Seven Hour War, along with the rest of Earth, City 17 is no longer under humanity's control. The unconditional surrender of the unified human government has turned the devastatingly powerful extraterrestrial forces of the Combine into the planet's new absolute rulers. It is they who constructed imposing Citadels in major cities. It is they who chose to erect the greatest of the Citadels in City 17 turning it into their de facto global capital, where Wallace Breen, former head of Black Mesa and Earth's current appointed Administrator, has his headquarters.
It's been a while since the last update on the Virtual Cities atlas, and as you may have noticed the campaign is steadily climbing towards its first stretch goal. Achieving 150% feels like something we can actually reach, and I've thus slightly readjusted our plans to allow for the inclusion of 45 cities in the book; that's roughly an extra 10 illustrations, 5 maps, and over 5000 words.
Virtual Cities, being an atlas that intends to cover all aspects of videogame urbanism, is, appropriately, also aiming to encompass the entire range of gaming's cities. So, following last week's announcement regarding the inclusion of 0°N 0°W's surreal urban entities, here's a short update to let you know that the contemporary, realistic, and yet imaginary (to the point of utopianism some…
0°N 0°W was released only a few months ago by indie studio Colorfiction, and is a truly unique exercise in surreal urbanism, and the crafting of strange, dreamlike cities. An unexpectedly meditative interactive experience exploring the possibilities of imaginary, experimental planning, I simply had to include in the Virtual Cities atlas.
As visiting 0°N 0°W can be pretty…
I never expected Virtual Cities to be funded in less than three weeks, and both I and Maria Kallikaki are truly grateful for your support, and very excited to be working on our atlas of game cities. Also, having discussed things with the lovely people of Unbound we are now in the happy position of being able to announce our stretch goals:
Game cities are a fascinating subject, and as is the case with all fascinating subjects, they can be approached, explored, and appreciated in a multitude of ways. Readers intrigued by our Virtual Cities atlas might thus also be interested in a radically different approach.
The Continuous City by Gareth Damian Martin is a collection of wonderful, black and white, analogue photography exploring…
First of all, a huge THANK YOU to all you wonderful people who helped the Virtual Cities campaign reach its funding goal in less than three weeks! Both I and Maria Kallikaki are beyond excited in the knowledge that our atlas is indeed happening! We also now know how (and where) to spend our summer.
What's more, we are looking --along with the wonderful team @ Unbound-- for ways of making this…
Popular demand --expressed both publicly in the book's FAQ secion, and privately via emails-- led us to the inclusion of two new pledge levels for the Virtual Cities campaign:
- the Signed Bookplate and Postcards (a special offer) level offering the book, the signed bookplate, and the postcards,
- and the Book Bundle pledge aimed at retailers, and indie shops featuring five copies of the atlas…
Fallen London, the wonderfully dark and deliciously devilish Victorian Gothic metropolis of Failbetter Games, and also the intricate urban setting of both Fallen London and Sunless Sea will be a part of the Virtual Cities atlas!* What's more, the incredibly generous people of Failbetter Games shall be helping me and Maria Kallikaki map this fabulously intricate imaginary city, capture and re-interpret…
We have decided to remove all references to GTA V, and Los Santos, as well as all references to Bioshock from the campaign (and the relevant updates). We will be focusing on other virtual cities instead.
Thank you all for the wonderful, heart-warming support!
The Virtual Cities atlas, this artful, and very cartographic journey through gaming's cities would never be possible without the love you have shown it (and us). Honestly, thank you!
The campaign is already approaching the point of being 50% funded, and I'm certain that by spreading the word even further, we'll be hitting 100% very soon…
Back in 2017 I and artist Maria Kallikaki decided that launching a virtual cartographic expedition to map, explore, and capture the essence of gaming's most intriguing cities would be an adventure worth embarking on.
Now, almost a year later I can't help but feel we are almost there. Virtual Cities is happening, and I'd like to ask all you wonderful people for your help in spreading the word on…
These people are helping to fund Virtual Cities.