Liminal Spaces in Games

Yeah, this one doesn’t feel quite right…

If you don’t know what they are, Liminal Spaces are essentially the location version of the uncanny valley, a place that is not quite correct in your eyes, sometimes to a creepy degree. This can be spaces that don’t have people in them but should, places that have weird or nonsensical geometry or even just places that have a dark vibe. Some people love them, like myself, some people find them disturbing or creepy, and they certainly have made their ways into games.

Various different titles seek to directly play inside of liminal spaces, like ‘Escape from the Backrooms’ and other such titles, but the ones I am more interested in are those that unintentionally give off liminal vibes. These can include The Stanley Parable with it’s vast empty offices, empty G-Mod Maps with their strange Source Engine vibes and even things such as Super Mario 64 in some locations. The reason games tend to have a strong liminal vibe at times is due to their nostalgic pull that can greatly affect how you perceive an environment.

I was discussing with a friend yesterday that games allow you to physically interact with liminal spaces such as these, allowing you to explore them in safety and try to truly understand what makes them so fascinating to us. Is it the confusion or even fear of the unknown, is it our desire to explore even when we do not know the outcome, or perhaps we just like a space. I know there are plenty of locations I would love to just sit or look around in from games, similar to how interactive spaces in VR games work, just sit back, put on a headset and look around a fantastical world. It can even be comforting for some, like for myself I find liminal spaces, and especially those in games, to be incredibly atmospheric and calming. A truly unknown space, but one that I find myself wanting to return to. Perhaps that’s just a me thing though…

What do you all think? Do you have any games or digital locations that you would consider liminal? If so share them with me, I’d love to know! That’s all for now, and as always. It’s not just a game, It’s a Life.

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