SPACE, AGENCY, MEANING AND DRAMA IN NAVIGABLE REAL-TIME VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS
Volume: 2 ISBN / ISNN: ISSN 2342-9666
Does our preoccupation with navigable space distract us from the expressive potential of interactive media? Can our understanding of spatial context in virtual environments (VEs) be expanded to incorporate social reasoning and behavior? Drawing on the theoretical foundations and practice of Architecture, this paper considers the relationship between person and environment in the real world and in navigable real-time three-dimensional digital worlds. The first part discusses the cyclical and bi-directional nature of the person _ environment relationship with interactive involvement as the basis for meaning construction and behavior guidance. The second part considers the differences brought in by the representative nature of computer-based interactive three-dimensional (3D) worlds. The examples for discussion are derived from the rich field of videogames. This is followed by an overview of the principal components of Shenmue II, a role-playing game, and a case-study examination of one interactive sequence from it. The analysis shows that navigable space always carries meaning, reiterates that interactivity is an integral part of spatial experiences and illustrates how construction of mental images is a product of mediation. When VEs are designed to utilize rich agency and expressive mediation devices, they potently overstep the systematic rule-based constraints of their design and become meaningful and engaging as situations that have real-world roots and dramatically significant consequences.