September Roundup: ‘Maps’

Maybe it’s just me, but I love that I get to post the roundup about ‘Maps’ on the first day of October. There’s just something about October that makes me want to go on a treasure hunt, go for a long drive on country roads, or spend my Saturday curled up in a blanket with a warm coffee and a fantasy novel. What complements each of these things best? A good map. So, without further ado, let’s get in the spirit with the great reflections on ‘Maps’ from September’s Blogs of the Roundtable. 

Tim and Phil Talk About Games kicks us off this month with a discussion of hand-drawn maps made while playing games alongside the suggestion that the maps we create for ourselves are far more open-ended and exploratory than the level maps of today, which instead act as a compass through a linear story. 

Making a similar claim, Leigh Harrison reflects on his childhood hobbies of Lego, map-drawing, and GTA IV  to note that, while Lego and maps have infinite possibilities and opportunity, GTA games – despite being open world and having great maps – are devoid of meaningful variety.

Also looking back to his childhood experiences of spaces and places, Taylor Hidalgo suggests that by ignoring fixed space, Happy Home Designer’s map draws borders around what is actually infinite space and, as a result, limits meaning rather than space.

Also thinking about space and time, RJ Davnall looks at the ways games – and Tales of Vesperia in particular – struggle to map time as well as they map space.

Elsewhere, Robert H. Dylan joins us from Alien Fiction this month to discusses the social aspect of maps, stating, “ The practice of ‘mapping’ a map is always first a conceptual, social, ideological practice. World maps often provide a unifying theme for narrative, but are also narratives.”

With a second contribution for the month, RJ Davnall joins in the social commentary to suggests that Karol’s mapmaking in Tales of Vesperia as an expression of masculinity, control, and privilege.

Joining us from HoeyBoey, Joseph Dwan talks about the act of map making as a mechanic in The Etrian Odyssey but also about how the need for a map sets us apart as outsiders.

Meanwhile, Andrew Yoder discusses how certain spaces facilitate or prompt certain behaviors and links this to map building and the design of Thief.

Examining another design element and its effect, The Rev 3.0 notes that one limitation of Bethesda’s open worlds are its navigational signposts; both in-world and out. The Rev states, “The open world is usually navigated by floating arrows which turn questing across fantasy worlds and post-apocalypses alike into navigating a modern city via GPS.”

Aira describes how her childhood raids on the math room for graph paper needed to make her maps based on RPGs that captured her gaming imagination. Growing up with RPGs has facilitated a very particular fascination with intricate spaces that rarely come across in tabletop or 3-dimensional RPGs.

Tying this month’s conversations with a nice bow, Joey DiZoglio joins us from Nerd Cavern to suggest that while all maps in games have a narrative foundation, our subjective experience of that narrative can challenge traditional understandings of maps, spaces, and linearity.

If that roundup didn’t get you in the fall spirit, well you may just be one of the undead and I don’t know how to help you.

I want to take this opportunity before closing to thank Kaitlin Tremblay for the fabulous prompt for September! It certainly inspired some wonderful results.

If you haven’t already, feel free to use this code to embed the links in your blog (provided your publishing platform allows iframes, that is):

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In closing, please keep an eye out for This Month in Let’s Plays and This Week in Videogame Blogging, both of which are headed your way this weekend. Additionally, make sure you check back to find out what Mark Filipowich has in store for us here on BoRT for October.

Now, where’d I put that treasure map…