The Worldliness of the Dragon Age: Origins Game World

Lars Wangdahl


This paper examines the game map in the Bioware computer game Dragon Age: Origins (Bioware, 2009) with respect to it's relation to the game world. By aesthetically critically discussing features of the game world and how they contribute to game play I want to further the discussion of the usefulness of the game world concept when studying computer games. The preposition that game play consists of three aspects of experience, game world, story and play is forwarded. One major gain with using the game world concept is that it is a handy way to talk about other content than that which is directly related to the particular story in the game at hand. Also, in games the world take on a more independent role than in literature. The game world concept should be understood as comprehensive, comprising far more than just space. Still it should not be confused with that of a real world. The game world is a scene or setting that can be used for many different stories. There is a map of the world in which Dragon Age: Origins takes place. It has been used both outside the game and inside it as a game map interface in a revised and cropped version. The analysis shows that this map (in either form) cannot really be regarded as a piece of the game world. It seems to work as an instrument on a conceptual level, it might have been used in game production, and definitely it works for communicating with players. Rather than a proper map map though, it is an image representing the game world on a typical level and in accordance with genre conventions. Neither can it be regarded as a part of the game world. Still, as it is used within the game, the map strengthens moods and themes within the game. The map of Thedas, and the cut out version of it used within the game, both work as images more than maps. As such they refer to the game world in a metaphorical way. Even if the map is used as an interface for navigation in the game it is really it's visual and symbolic attributes that contribute to the understanding of the game world.