Scenography builds mood and meaning into the theatrical production via choices in stage design that accentuates human performance above all else. This emphasis on performance through scenography informs the architectural spaces of Cardboard Computer’s episodic game Kentucky Route Zero too. Point-and-click adventure games like it often mimic the perspective of the theatergoer viewing a proscenium. They typically have you maneuver characters laterally through dioramic spaces with clearly demarcated on-stage and off-stage delineations. Likewise, you cannot directly control the camera; it is a forced perspective, not meant to be peered through or around. Kentucky Route Zero further evokes the architecture of the proscenium by visualizing the cross sections of buildings when characters enter them, revealing cross-beams, wooden frames, and concrete foundations that engulf the warmly-lit living spaces behind the darkened exterior façade. By framing locations with this apparatus, Cardboard Computer weds game spaces to theatrical set design, offering you an expanded range of visual knowledge to which the characters are not privy. In a talk at the Game Developers Conference in 2014, Tamas Kemenczy—one third of Cardboard Computer—discussed the influence of scenography in shaping these spaces in Kentucky Route Zero. Kemenczy’s understanding of scenography specifically draws from Appia and Howard, yoking together videogame design with a rich history of stagecraft with roots in the late 1800s.
Read the full text in Heterotopias Issue 004.