[ISEA2008] Paper: Alison Gazzard & Alan Peacock – Folded Space: How Computer Games Rework Our Ideas of the Maze


This paper explore the translation of the maze from a ritual path to the computer game, and how this is re-working our cultural relationship with the folded spaces of the maze.

Where the age-old physical maze addresses many cultural activities and functions from ritual to play, from threat to entertainment, the computer game adopts the traits of the maze as a puzzle, seeking to contradictorily both engage the player and delay the action and its rewards. Where the worldly-maze is a dwell and enjoy device, a pathway of experiences, the game-maze is a pathway to, a device for completing the multiple objectives of the game.

All games can be seen as information strategies. The worldly-maze relies, often, on visual and spatial confusions of many kinds. Low affordance surfaces, space and configuration, vertiginous twists and turns, etc. Although the maze puzzles of computer games adopt and exploit many of these strategies there remains a significant difference between the pathways to in the virtual and the pathways of in the embodied world. In part this is because worldly mazes suffer entropic change – inadvertent, accidental and co-incidental events leave their marks, whereas the game-maze is invoked identically on each of its instances.

Worldly mazes are explorable spaces where exploration itself signifies a particular richness of experience. The puzzle mazes of the game are more like stations along a route with other objectives, aims and ends. Worldly mazes are thinly spread and rarely experienced. Geography and occasional visit contribute to their ritual power. However, the game-mazes are near ubiquitous, readily available, easily accessed in their daily play across the planet. This familiarity dilutes the potential for ritual, reframes our experience of exploration.

The paper will be illustrated by examples of game mazes from Zork through Pacman and Bomberman to Tomb Raider.

  • Alison GazzardAlan Peacock, University of Hertfordshire, UK

Full text (PDF)  p. 188-189