Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shenmue 2 and Kowloon: Preserved in Gaming

I was looking at Asian urban decay on the net today, and I came across pictures of Kowloon the Walled City. I remembered the city from Shenmue 2, but little did I know, the city no longer exist in the real world. Kowloon, was once a sprawling location in China nicknamed "the City of Darkness." In 1993 the infamous city was demolished due to it's lawless nature and network of criminal activity.

The city now exists only in the photos, videos, and memories of people who lived there or visited. I read it described as a chaotic world unto itself, akin to a cyberpunk landscape not unlike the world of Blade Runner. Sadly, I will never be able to go there. However, that is why a game like Shenmue 2 is so special to me. Kowloon exists there, preserved in 1987 (the time Shenmue's story occurs) forever for curious people to explore and behold. I cannot think of a better game to preserve it's glory either, as Shenmue's creators were meticulous in their efforts to recreate the time and places represented in the storyline.

Video games give us the chance to do things we could never do otherwise. I could never be a ninja or fight a dragon, but gaming allows me to do those things in a virtual world. What makes exploring Kowloon so special in Shenmue? It was a real place that can explored virtually for generations to come. You can explore Nazi Germany in Call of Duty, but are you really exploring or just wandering around killing enemies? Sega made the city as true to life as possible. When you play that section of the game, the city is crime ridden and it looks like another world.

If you haven't played the game or even if you have, this section of the game is worth another look if only to see a part of world that no longer exists preserved perfectly in 1987.

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