Transparent cities: Re-shaping the urban experience through interactive video game simulation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • R. Atkinson
  • P. Willis


Publication details

DatePublished - Dec 2009
Issue number4
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)403-417
Original languageEnglish


Traditional notions of urbanism have focused on the cultures, social life and institutions of cities. Yet within cities new forms of sociability and freedom have been granted through active engagement with simulated alternatives to urban space. These, at least partially, substitute, mediate and otherwise extend the meaning and experience of urban life. While the urban experience has long been overlaid by intersubjective images from literature, cinema and other media, the interactive turn represented by video gaming, in plausible social worlds, appears capable of modifying this experience. Super‐popular video games and the cohorts of their players force a greater elasticity to descriptors of the constitution of urban social life. For those who more or less inhabit these interactive alternatives, subjective viewpoints and understandings of the possibilities of urban space and experience appear to be opened up. Our empirical material suggests that the ‘real’ urban world is partially mediated by these worlds, and extended through the freedom of roaming both types of setting. Thus experience is influenced, reformatted, blurred and reworked by stepping between real and simulated urban spaces. We suggest that senses of urbanism have been founded on an understanding of place as a unitary and unifying space and that simulation has opened the way to a new vantage point in which play, interactivity, experimentation and fantasies of elective identity produce subtly different ways of engaging with, and re‐imagining, urban space.

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