Imagining Tokyo / April 30, 2005

Take a look at some night-time pictures of Tokyo.





Awesome, aren't they?

Funny thing is, even though I've lived here for almost seven months, I still haven't laid eyes on these amazing cityscapes that Shinjo's camera has managed to capture. I can assure you that the street-level view of Tokyo which I take in every day is quite different.

Not better or worse, you understand, just different.

Here you'd be justified for accusing me of pointing out the obvious. And yet, whenever I post one of these pictures on a videogame forum, I receive tons of emails from people who see more in these images than what is actually pictured in them.

And what do these people see in the above images (or, indeed, the many more like them that are currently sitting in my hard drive)? I'll tell you because there was once a time, not so long ago, when I used to stare at similar pictures for hours—whether sitting in front of a computer monitor, in my mind while walking the streets, or in my sleep (back when I actually used to sleep).

They see excitement, action and adventure. They see a city that, as the cliché goes, never sleeps. They see a sci-fi landscape right out of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner or William Gibson's Neuromancer.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

...beneath the quartz-halogen floods that lit the docks all night like vast stages; where you couldn't see the lights of Tokyo for the glare of the television sky, not even the towering hologram logo of the Fuji Electric Company, and Tokyo Bay was a black expanse where gulls wheeled above drifting shoals of white styrofoam. Behind the port lay the city, factory domes dominated by the vast cubes of corporate arcologies. Port and city were divided by a narrow borderland of older streets, an area with no official name. Night City, with Ninsei its heart. By day, the bars down Ninsei were shuttered and featureless, the neon dead, the holograms inert, waiting, under the poisoned silver sky.

So even though these people can't zoom in and take in the view that greets me every time I leave my apartment to go skating in downtown Tokyo, they sure as hell can use their imagination to fill in the blanks.

And if there's one thing that can be said about gamers, it's that they don't lack an active imagination.