The playing fields of Empire: Empire and spatiality in video games | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 7, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1757-191X
  • E-ISSN: 1757-1928



As in historical accounts, empire in video games too is concerned with the acquisition of geographical space. Like the splash of red marking the stretch of the British Empire on Victorian world maps, video games that let one play at empire are also obsessed with stamping the imperialist authority of ‘your’ nation on their in-game maps. Video game empires too work on the necessary logic of spatial expansion connected with which is the necessity to remove the ‘fog’ which prevents the player’s ‘line of sight’ from accessing information about surrounding areas. The focus on cartography and surveying in British Raj India is a useful comparison. Although much scholarship exists around the representations of the spatiality of Empire in more traditional media, there is little that addresses the video game representations of Empire. This article is about the representation and experience of space in conceptions of Empire vis-à-vis in empire-building video games, as understood in terms of both cartography and the lived experience of space. It argues that although empirebuilding video games are largely framed within the western imperialist discourses, the very nature of gameplay itself challenges these set notions – in a way remediating the ambiguity and anxieties of the representations of empire and its spatial constructs in earlier media.


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