Diego Calderara is a researcher based in Berlin. He grew up in Northern Italy and got his BA in History from the University of Milan, spending a semester at the University of Amsterdam as part of an Erasmus+ exchange. He obtained his MA in Global History from the Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. His MA thesis analysed the early websites of the Lega Nord party, in order to understand how the internet changed the relationship between young activists and the countryside. Outside of his studies he creates illustrations and comics.
Playing God: Aerial Landscapes as Representations of History in 1990s Computer Games
From the 2D worlds of SimCity (1989) to the isometric design of Age of Empires (1997), strategy games popularised the idea of playing as a God. Simulating an impossible aerial view, these games placed the player above the gameworld and gave them complete control over a virtual land. This project analyses the technologies of vision that supported these representations, in order to uncover the ideas about history and geography in the games' design. In particular, Diego considers these visual representations as hybrid forms, between maps and landscapes: as maps, they repurposed the tools of imperial cartography (such as the use of the surveyor's grid) to naturalize a colonial understanding of land. As landscapes, the unique use of perspective and the absence of a horizon eludes western artistic canons. With pictorial and cartographical elements constantly overlapping, these games offered a new experience of play with complex ideological implications. This research contributes to discussions on how history is imagined and visualised, and explores how popularised historical concepts shaped (and were shaped by) computer games.