Science Fiction Film & Television

How sf is embodied in level structures

Singular space in computer game interiors and game mechanics

Science Fiction Film & Television (2021), 14, (2), 209–234.


The experience of game intrinsic space is an architectural mode of perception more congruent to actual experiences of physically real architecture than to filmic space. This paper thus centres on the aesthetics of production, concerning the game worlds’ geometry, level structures and game mechanics, within the broader context of how sf and computer games are inextricably merged. This is to investigate how game intrinsic spaces communicate properties of sf or a media-specific ‘science fiction-ness’ through their aesthetics and digital condition. By first building a foundation on the topic of singular space and its liminality, I will then proceed with a few remarks on sf theory, sf imagery and the staging of (im)possible worlds in relation to the concept of ontological possibility space. For this purpose, I refer to two authors of sf theory: Vivian Sobchack and Simon Spiegel. Based on these two sections, I will give an introductory overview on game intrinsic space, its non-linear properties and the incorporation of the player. Here, differences between filmic and game intrinsic space will also be emphasised through a brief discussion. Thus, sf theory and film theory are interwoven with spatial theory and game studies in order to analyse the ontological possibility space that goes beyond the player-character’s everyday experience in actuality. Several examples clarify the theoretical groundwork while Portal 2 (2011) and Echo (2017) function as case studies.

Access Token
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Works cited

Aarseth, Espen. ‘Allegories of Space. The Question of Spatiality in Computer Games’. Cybertext Yearbook 2000. Ed. Markku Eskelinen and Raine Koskimaa. Jyväskylä: Jyväskylän yliopisto, 2001. Nykykulttuurin tutkimuskeskuksen julkaisuja/Publications of the Research Centre for Contemporary Culture 68. 152-71. Google Scholar

Abbott, Edwin. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. 1884. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Google Scholar

Backe, Hans-Joachim. ‘The Aesthetics of Non-Euclidean Game Spaces - Multistability and Object Permanence in Antichamber and P.T’. Game | World | Architectonics - Transdisciplinary Approaches on Structures and Mechanics, Spaces and Levels, Perception and Aesthetics. Ed. Marc Bonner. Heidelberg: Heidelberg U Publishing, 2021. 153-67. Google Scholar

Baudry, Jean-Louis. ‘Das Dispositiv: Metapsychologische Betrachtungen des Realitätseindrucks’. Kursbuch Medienkultur, Die maßgeblichen Theorien von Brecht bis Baudrillard. Ed. Claus Pias, Joseph Vogel, Lorenz Engell, Oliver Fahle and Britta Neitzel. Stuttgart: DVA, 2008. 381-404. Google Scholar

Bonner, Marc. ‘Architektur als mediales Scharnier - Medialität und Bildlichkeit der raumzeitlichen Erfahrungswelten Architektur, Film und Computerspiel’. Image. Zeitschrift für interdisziplinäre Bildwissenschaft 21.1 (2015): 5-22. Google Scholar

Bonner, Marc. ‘“Climb the Penrose Stairs to Merge with the (In)Finite”. The Astronaut as Reciprocal Posthuman’. We are All Astronauts. The Image of the Star Traveller in Arts and Media. Ed. Henry Keazor. Berlin: Neofelis Verlag, 2019. 191-210. Google Scholar

Bonner, Marc. ‘Introduction - Prospect Onto The Architectonics of Computer Games And Their World Properties’. Game | World | Architectonics - Transdisciplinary Approaches on Structures and Mechanics, Levels and Spaces, Aesthetics and Perception. Ed. Marc Bonner. Heidelberg: Heidelberg University Publishing, 2021. 1-16. Google Scholar

Bonner, Marc. ‘Piercing all Layers of the Anthroposphere - On Spatialization and Architectural Possibilism in Hitman’. Architectonics of Game Spaces, The Spatial Logic of the Virtual and Its Meaning for the Real. Ed. Andri Gerber and Ulrich Götz. Munich: Transcript, 2019. 215-32. Google Scholar

Bonner, Marc. ‘Rethinking Retrofuturism. The Representation of the Future in City and Spaceship Settings Revisiting Established Styles of Architecture’. Reality Unbound. New Departures in Science Fiction Cinema. Ed. Aidan Power, Delia González de Reufels, Rasmus Greiner and Winfried Pauleit. Berlin: Bertz + Fischer, 2017. 81-95. Google Scholar

Bonner, Marc and Thomas Hensel. ‘Astronaut and Avatar. Some Remarks About the Video Game as Outer Space’. We are All Astronauts. The Image of the Star Traveller in Arts and Media. Ed. Henry Keazor. Berlin: Neofelis Verlag, 2019. 225-42. Google Scholar

Bordwell, David. The Way Hollywood Tells It. Berkeley: U of California P, 2006. Google Scholar

Borges, Jorge Luis. ‘The Library of Babel’. Jorge Luis Borges. Collected Fictions. Trans. Andrew Hurley. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. 112-18. Google Scholar

Calleja, Gordon. In-Game: From Immersion to Incorporation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Google Scholar

Clarke, Arthur C. 2001: A Space Odyssey. 1968. New York: ROC Science-Fiction, 2000. Google Scholar

Fischer, Ralf Michael. Raum und Zeit im filmischen OEuvre von Stanley Kubrick. Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 2009. Neue Frankfurter Forschungen zur Kunst 7. Google Scholar

Günzel, Stephan. ‘The Space-Image. Interactivity and Spatiality of Computer Games’. Conference Proceedings of the Philosophy of Computer Games 2008. Ed. Stephan Günzel, Michael Liebe and Dieter Mersch. Potsdam: Potsdam UP, 2008. 170-89. Google Scholar

Hediger, Vinzenz. ‘Begehen und Verstehen, Wie der filmische Raum zum Ort wird’. Wissensraum Film, Trierer Beiträge zu den Historischen Kulturwissenschaften, Vol. 13. Ed. Irina Gradinari, Dorit Müller and Johannes Pause. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2014. 61-86. Google Scholar

Hensel, Thomas. ‘PORTALe: Multistabil, changierende, paradox. Bild- und genretheoretische Zugänge zum Computersopiel’. NCCR Mediality. Medienwandel-Medienwechsel - Medienwissen, Historische Perspektiven 13 (2015): 3-14. Google Scholar

Isozaki, Arata. ‘Ma - Space / Time in Japan’. Arata Isozaki. Ed. Arata Isozaki and Ken Tadashi Oshima. New York: Phaidon, 2009. 156-61. Google Scholar

Isozaki, Arata. ‘Writing on Architecture’. Arata Isozaki. Ed. Arata Isozaki and Ken Tadashi Oshima. New York: Phaidon, 2009. 6-9. Google Scholar

Jagoda, Patrick. ‘Digital Games and Science Fiction’. The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction. Ed. Gerry Canavan and Eric Carl Link. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2015. 139-52. Google Scholar

Johnson, Mark R. ‘Megastructures, Superweapons and Global Architectures in Science Fiction Computer Games’. Economic Science Fictions. Ed. William Davies. London: Goldsmiths P, 2018. 237-57. Google Scholar

Klevjer, Rune. ‘Enter the Avatar: The Phenomenology of Prosthetic Telepresence in Computer Games’. The Philosophy of Computer Games. Ed. John Richard Sageng, Hallvard Fossheim and Tarjei Mandt Larsen. Dordrecht: Springer, 2012. 17-38. Google Scholar

Martin, Gareth Damien. ‘How Repetition Defines the Masterful World of Echo’. (27 Oct 2017). Accessed 17 Nov 2019. Google Scholar

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. 1945. New York: Routledge, 2012. Google Scholar

Nitsche, Michael. Video Game Spaces. Image, Play, and Structure in 3D Worlds. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008. Google Scholar

Ray, David. ‘ECHO: An Interview witch Mark Emborg’. (28 Aug 2017). Accessed 17 Nov 2019. Google Scholar

Rogers, Scott. ‘Hell, Hyboria, and Disneyland’. Level Design, Processes and Experiences. Ed. Christopher W. Totten. New York: CRC Press, 2017. 101-20. Google Scholar

Schmidt, Oliver. Hybride Räume. Filmwelten im Hollywood-Kino der Jahrtausendwende. Marburg: Schüren, 2013. Google Scholar

Smith, Harvey and Matthias Worch. ‘What Happened Here? Environmental Storytelling’. Game Developers Conference 2010, 9-13 Mar 2010, San Francisco. Accessed 17 Nov 2019. Google Scholar

Sobchack, Vivian Carol. Screening Space. The American Science Fiction Film. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1997. Google Scholar

Spiegel, Simon. Die Konstitution des Wunderbaren. Zu einer Poetik des Science-Fiction-Films. Marburg: Schüren, 2007. Google Scholar

Vella, Daniel. ‘Spatialised Memory: The Gameworld As Embedded Narrative’. The Philosophy of Computer Games Conference 2011, 6-9 Apr 2017, Athens. Accessed 17 Nov 2019. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Author details

Bonner, Marc