Luogo, prova, espediente, punizione. Le molteplici facce del carcere nel videogame

Translated title of the contribution: [Autom. eng. transl.] Place, trial, expedient, punishment. The multiple faces of prison in video games

Mauro Salvador

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


[Autom. eng. transl.] The representations of the prison within videogames products are numerous and quite heterogeneous. Studying a place with such precise characteristics makes it very clear that within a videogame analysis a spatial element can offer interesting cues on multiple levels. After all, the so-called spatial turn experienced by game studies gives the possibility to analyze the virtual game worlds with the most disparate tools, giving at the same time to consider the visual and interactive aspects as fundamental. In this work, three possible configurations are analyzed, considering the prison place both as a virtual environment in which the gaming experience takes place, and as an expedient linked to the rules of which each video game is intrinsically endowed, and as a narrative environment characterized by peculiar qualities. The videoludic prison can then be read as a simple setting for games like The Suffering, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay or Batman: Arkham Asylum, becoming in effect a key element, if not the true protagonist, of the playful product. Furthermore it can be exploited as a device able to camouflage with great precision those rules of the game which, according to Jesper Juul, make the videogame worlds deeply incoherent on a narrative level. In titles such as those of the Grand Theft Auto series for example, death is reduced to the payment of a hospital ticket, while the arrest turns into a deposit. The prison then becomes a building in the background, a ploy to avoid the old game over screen and the experiential short circuit that it brought with it. Finally, the representation of the prison can be linked to complex narrative structures in which the detention facility represents an obligatory place of passage for the affair. The jail in Half-Life 2 or Dragon Age: Origins then becomes a perfect example of the classic fall of the hero preparatory to triumph, the "central test" at the end of the second act of the journey of the hero described by Joseph Campbell. The three configurations identified then demonstrate how the prison is a place deeply rooted in the videogame imagery, able to assume a transversal value and to cover a precise role on different levels, from the characterization of the virtual game world, to the softening of its incoherence, until it becomes a veritable archetypal place for complex videogame narratives.
Translated title of the contribution[Autom. eng. transl.] Place, trial, expedient, punishment. The multiple faces of prison in video games
Original languageItalian
Pages (from-to)N/A-N/A
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • campbell
  • carcere
  • eroe
  • videogame


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