05/01/2013: distance


Wandering deeper and deeper into labyrinthian structures: expansive sterile spaces void of activity. Old malls, hotels, convention centers- occupy some deeply uncomfortable world that goes unseen; phantom cultures that exist beyond what is viewed. Open areas that are designed to support large events and droves of people left completely alone- it forms a mental gap. Something should be there, it’s set up like it should be- but all you can see, all you can hear- is the subdued form of distant music, and the low hum of air conditioners.

In a lot of older 3D games I get a similar feeling- these large open spaces that imitate an environment that feel like they should have activity, feel like things should be happening, but exist only in reference. The handful of characters that occupy a city making vague comments about a robber, a war, or an invasion, but the entire universe is frozen in time and will never move beyond these things. The world is static and exists outside of any actual need for movement because it exists only as a concept to give an illusion of depth. Abstracted stages that give a context for these brutal systems that want to destroy you.

I used to play JRPGs like Quest64 and Final Fantasy VII wondering if all the open space maybe had some use, and I didn’t pay attention to the manual and was missing something. Maybe I hadn’t learned some combination of buttons that opened new dialogue or something. It all felt so strange. The world around me was happening, I felt time moving, and I was running around these tiny 3D block worlds for hours, but nothing ever changed. I would still hear the same 3 lines of dialogue, still encounter the same few enemies after so many steps, and years after I stopped playing I would come back and the only thing that changed was the lens I was viewing it from.

I really enjoy this feeling of distance, though- things that are far off and hard to make out. A lot of the ideas that have fascinated me most have been the result of misinterpreting things I’ve experienced. Hearing a song under the blanket of city sounds: cars and machines roaring over the blurred tune- it meshes in my head and leads to something vastly different. Trying to scavenge through the noise for new understandings to help define the disorienting ocean of details is one of my favorite activities.