Introduction to: Games as a manipulation of virtual space.

Verboten Games shall be running through a series of short posts about games in terms of space-manipulation. Most electronic games are comprised of space in which the player can manoeuvre, and we shall be exploring this and how it impacts on gameplay and challenge.

To start with, though: a few definitions that shall be used throughout and what is meant by them.


The space that a player’s avatar has command over in-the-instant. That is, a controller press will feasibly take them there. In the game Pong, this represents the each player’s movement area.

PONG's active space, in red


The area in which the player’s avatar can move. This may be limited by inaccessible parts of level, and/or barriers presented by obstacles and enemy objects. In Tetris, the player’s avatar constantly changes as new pieces are presented, coupled with the spent pieces in the playfield this changes the potential space (highlighted in blue) accordingly.

Potential space also encompasses active space (in red).

Tetris' active and potential space


As the name implies, this is cause-and-effect space. Essentially, space that is controlled not by the player’s avatar, but by an event or many events they have started. A basic example is the destructive path of a Koopa’s shell in Super Mario Bros. (highlighted in yellow).

Causal space as seen in Super Mario Bros.

It is worthwhile to break games down to the basics of manipulable space in order to better understand them and how to construct a challenge based around them. Note that these fundamentals can also apply to board and tabletop games; the theory is transferable, and universal.


3 thoughts on “Introduction to: Games as a manipulation of virtual space.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s