Gaming magazine Heterotopias is branching out into books - and its first project is a unique collection of analogue photographs documenting virtual worlds.
The Continuous City is a collection of analogue photography exploring the virtual cities of video games, curently fundraising on Unbound. This meticulously designed book provides a new way of seeing virtual worlds, and blurs the line between the digital and the real.
This is the first print book from Heterotopias, a digital magazine which focuses on the spaces and architecture of virtual worlds. Launched in 2017, Heterotopias has met with critical acclaim, and has hollowed out a unique space within games criticism. The Continuous City is intended to be the first in a series of unique print books appealing to a gamer audience.
Heterotopias was created by Gareth Damian Martin, a writer, artist and game designer who is also a Eurogamer columnist and respected games journalist. In early 2018, Martin was nominated for the prestigious New York Game Critics Circle Games Journalism Award. His work as a game photographer has appeared on Kotaku and US Gamer, and he is also a History and Theory tutor at the Bartlett School of Architecture, where he teaches on the intersections of video games and urbanism. His first game, In Other Waters, was funded on Kickstarter in February 2018.
What's the gap in the market?
The Continuous City is the first book of analogue game photography ever to be published. Martin believes there is strong demand from gaming fans to see their passion represented across multiple publishing forms.
"Heterotopias has proven there is an appetite for games criticism that is aware of the cultural context of games, but also willing to experiment with new ways of exploring these ideas, through mapping, photo essays and long from criticism," he says. "The Continuous City aims to take that audience, and expand it, reaching those interested in photography and architecture and introducing the complexity and visual beauty of video game spaces to them. Games, as a medium, have typically been isolated from other parts of culture, Heterotopias and The Continous City wants to break that barrier."
Success so far?
Heterotopias has grown with each issue, and publishing partnerships have seen extracts from the magazine published on major sites like Waypoint, US Gamer and Kotaku.
"It's digital-only model has allowed it to becomes a sustainable publication in an era when most online criticism is reducing its budgets and is increasingly dominated by advertising," Martin asserts. "The Continuous City is building off that success by gathering funds on the innovative crowdfunding platform Unbound, asking for support from fans of games, but also architecture and photography audiences. The project has made a good start, but will need to hit 100% funding to happen."
The biggest challenge for The Continuous City is, frankly, helping people get their heads round what they're looking at.
"While they look haunting, unreal and surprising at first glance, many people do not understand that they are in fact seeing analogue photographs, taken with a traditional 35mm camera, as opposed to digitally manipulated images," Martin says. "The process of taking these images involves setting up a precise studio environment with a projector so that the projection can be photographed onto analogue film then processed. It's a unique operation, so helping people understand how it produces these strange images can be tricky."
The ambition of the Heteroptopias project is to have a unique split between digital and print projects. "We value the flexibility, speed, and sustainability of our digital magazine, but also want to fulfill reader's desires for bringing the magazine's visually striking look and design into print," Martin says. If funding for The Continuous City is successful we hope to produce more unique books that will help open up game spaces to new audiences, and provide new perspectives on their complex worlds."
Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?
"Planning for, and structuring projects around financially sustainability is incredibly important. For projects like Heterotopias, there is no point having the lofty goal of shifting the conversation within games criticism, if the project itself relies on free labor and borrowed time. From the beginning the intention with Heterotopias was not just to make a space for a new form of games criticism, but to make a new space that could survive, pay its writers, and prosper. To do this we looked at models inspired by the digital distribution of independent games, and realized that a digital magazine, if produced at a high enough quality, could allow us to step outside of the advertising-mandated structure of web publishing and shape something new."