View from the end of the world

By Jamillah Knowles
Online reporter

image captionVirtual photographer Robert Overweg captures the places where the world ends. Images courtesy of TAG, The Hague

Taking a journey to the end of the world might not be for everyone, but in the virtual spaces of gaming and online environments, it's not as dangerous as it might seem.

Robert Overweg in the Netherlands has been capturing virtual spaces since 2007 and his latest project has produced some of the most eerie and unexpected pictures from the worlds of first-person shooter video-games.

He first found the edges of a world while playing a game called Left for Dead.

"I saw normal road, walls and bushes but then the road just ended - it was foggy. So I decided to capture this and go into other games and explore their aesthetics of the ends of their worlds," Mr Overweg said.

image captionWhen the road runs out

Mr Overweg believes that images he captures remove the sense of gaming from the graphics. Instead they can be interpreted as separate art works revealing new themes to the viewer that may not be related to the ideas initially designed by the game developers.

"Most of the first games I take pictures in look eerie because that is the nature of the story. They are either about wars or there are zombies to be slayed. They choose to make war games and I choose not to document the shooting and fighting but to explore the world."

Off the beaten track

There is an established online movement of bloggers and collectors who visit gaming and virtual environments in order to create stills and videos, generating their own stories and scenarios.

Machinima videos commonly uploaded to YouTube and other video sharing sites are the creation of new animations within an already constructed 3-D environment.

Sometimes these appear by accident - the result of a programming glitch within a gaming world where the graphics or game-play do not appear in an expected manner.

They are not as common now as games testers weed out the problems before a game is released so that it does not distract from the game itself.

Glitches differ from the end of a virtual world which appears to be a conscious decision to stop creating the virtual environment in a specific direction.

image captionA glitch in a game can create a surprising image.

Though seen as a fun and creative pursuit, some people feel that repurposing a game spaces breaches the artistic agreement of the game designers.

Mr Overweg has already attempted to flag his work up to those who made his working environment.

"I have tried to contact companies with the images that I have taken, but no one has come back to me yet."

For now the 3-D gaming arena is providing new activities for participants. Rather than shoot other players, some gamers prefer to create art and document their new horizons.

"I see myself as an explorer, making use of new possibilities, and seeking out cracks in the worlds or new areas to document in glitches," said Robert Overweg.

"It's like a copy of the real world where things go wrong and it's very surreal."

You can hear more about the project in this week's Outriders.

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