[Kentucky Route Zero] Act II’s first scene in the Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces similarly collapses the real and unreal, the past and the present. Shannon, Conway, and his dog arrive at the foot of this six-story concrete office block, which sits inside a massive cathedral alongside a river. Hermit crabs, a docked boat, and a fishing rod adjacent to running water obscures the line between interior and exterior spaces. There is no doorway or threshold that separates the outside from the lobby of the Bureau, and the boundaries of the building remain unclear, as though the building were only half-constructed and open to the elements (an entire floor is inhabited by bears). Why is a modern office building situated inside an ancient, rotting cathedral? In this opening scene, the game invokes a sense of “imagined architecture,” directly referencing (via the text) philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s book The Poetics of Space. Cara Ellison examines Bachelard’s influence on the game, noting how Kentucky Route Zero is similarly invested in the notion that inside and outside (and other binary spatial choices) is an unimportant distinction. Rather, the individual’s phenomenological experience of a space is the paramount question for architects—and by extension, for videogame level designers—in which a structure serves as a vessel for human consciousness, and more importantly, as a storehouse for dreams and the imagination.
Read the full column at Haywire Magazine.