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I'm currently leading the three-year research project ‘Open World Structures: Architecture, City- and Landscapese in Computer Games’ (2017-2020) which is funded by the German Research Association (DFG).

The research project is a novel access to the architectonics of digital game worlds. Against the backdrop of computer games as mass media, modern games are commonly produced as open world games. These studies focus on how and by what means the ever-increasing and more complex game worlds are constituted. The centre of this approach is to research the increasing correlation between spatiotemporal courses of action within game intrinsic space and behaviour patterns of everyday life in physical reality. In addition, research taking place in this framework also investigates how playing open world games evoke new world views in the sense of media specific images of natural, urban and cultural aspects. Lastly, the research project explores methods of experiencing virtual worlds and its landscapes with its subsequent potential of regulating a higher awareness and a sensitised critical approach towards our physically real world.

The goal is to develop a transdisciplinary approach in order to analyse the architectonics of ever-growing open world games. The investigation focuses on the modular layout of digital game worlds and their complex patterns generating and governing a media specific distillate of historically habituated man-made behaviour patterns. Today, the latter continues to influence aesthetical experiences and thus, enables individual gameplay experiences. This includes not only the technical constitution of the digital game image medium but also the ontology and mediation of game intrinsic space and its perception.

The project proposes a deep-rooted urge for exploration in open world games. When topographies of games are designed with archipelagos bathed by the ocean, mountain valleys surrounded by steep slopes and mountain ridges or undulating maze-like cityscapes, they simulate a coherent vastness. One of the preliminary findings of the project are the predominantly non-linear navigable and seemingly unmanageable landscapes constituted by complex networks of strategies of involvement, moving away from established or classic narrative concepts. Plots and story arcs are mostly reduced to a minor matter. This shift in storytelling also causes a shift in worldbuilding towards landscape experiences and explorations as ends in themselves.

As such, these open world structures call for a transdisciplinary approach in order to analyse their media-specific distillate of cultural history embedded in world experiences and behavioural patterns. Further case studies involve adaptations of physically real places, nested in the collective memory of popular culture, which are then in turn used as involvement devices. In further consequence, the staging of society is as crucial to involve players as it is of interest how open world games reflect and/or ignore current topics such as (post)colonialism, nationalism, racism or the methods in which they convey history and the man-nature dichotomy.

Given the complex media constitution of open world structures, a distinct analytic model is necessary to satisfy a critical transdisciplinary approach that is constituted from a wide range of disciplines such as Media and Game Studies, Art History, Architectural Theory and History, Spatial Theory, Phenomenology and Embodiment, Anthropogeography, as well as Cultural Studies, to name but a few.

The project will develop such a model tailored towards computer game worlds and its inherent spatiotemporal navigation and appropriation, whilst also accommodating historical constellations in other media. The media-centred analysis incorporates both the staged structures of game worlds themselves and the behaviour patterns of players that take place within architecture-, urban and natural landscape-driven open world structures. The analytic model will contain both approaches, aesthetics of production and aesthetics of reception and, at its core, addresses the matter of (1) architecture in game worlds in the sense of its media specific spatialization, architectural layouts and the role of architecture (as landscape), as well as (2) the architecture of computer games themselves in the sense of systematics, structures and media specific logics between algorithms and databases – worldbuilding from a different angle. Thus, the ’Open World Structures’ project will provide the heuristics for future research by establishing an understanding of computer games as spatial, architectural or world phenomena within the current digital media culture.

Main research interests:

I did my PhD in Art History and also studied the subsidiary subjects History and Information Science.

+ Architectural History and Theory from the 19th to 21st century

+ Game Studies, with a focus on depiction and use of architecture, urban and natural landscapes as well as game intrinsic space

+ Science-Fiction-Film (focus on architecture as well as urban utopio/dystopia)

+ Spatial Theory and Philosophy

+ Transdisciplinary research between architecture, film and computer games

+ Transdisciplinary approach towards Philosophy and discourses on space, landscape and wilderness

Some publications:

Bonner, Marc. 2019. „Hypertrophe Megastrukturen – Zur Rolle utopischer Architekturkonzepte der Nachkriegszeit in der Stadtvision von Blade Runner 2049.In Filmische SciFi-Cities als Dispositive urbaner Zukünfte. Virtuelle Realitäten entwerfen, edited by Denis Newiak and Anke Steinborn. (forthcoming)

Bonner, Marc. 2019. „Soweit die offene Welt reicht – Zur Konstitution der Skybox als ‚weltförmige Halle‘ des Computerspiels und zur Illusion von Weite und den sie gliedernden Horizonten.“ In Mit weit geschlossenen Augen. Virtuelle Realitäten entwerfen, edited by Carolin Höfler and Philipp Reinfeld. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag. (forthcoming)

Bonner, Marc. 2019. „Climb the Penrose Stairs to Merge with the (In)Finite.’ The Astronaut as Reciprocal Posthuman.” In We are All Astronauts. The Image of the Star Traveller in Arts and Media, edited by Henry Keazor. Berlin: Neofelis. (forthcoming)

Bonner, Marc und Henry Keazor. 2018. „Modellwelten. Zwischen Transparenz und Opazität: Die doppelten Bilder der digitalen Moderne.“ In Digitale Moderne. Die Modellwelten von Matthias Zimmermann, edited by Natascha Adamowsky, 74-109. München: Hirmer.

Bonner, Marc. 2018. „On Striated Wilderness and Prospect Pacing: Rural Open World Games as Liminal Spaces oft he Man-Nature Dichotomy.“ DiGRA 2018. The Game is the Message, University of Turin 25.-28. Juli 2018, Conference Proceedings, 1-18. URL:

Bonner, Marc. 2017. „Interstellar Floating in Nostalgia – Christopher Nolans Dimensionen taktiler Retroästhetik. In Just Little Bits Of History Repeating. Medien | Nostalgie | Retromanie. Reihe Medienwelten, Bd. 28, edited by Pablo Abend, Marc Bonner and Tanja Weber, 53-75. Münster: LIT Verlag.

Bonner, Marc. 2017. „Erkundung als virtuell-fiktionale Immersionsstrategie – Das prospect pacing der Open-World-Computerspiele als Spiegel nicht linearer Spieler-Einbindung.“ In Jahrbuch Immersiver Medien 2016. Interfaces – Netze – Virtuelle Welten, edited by Institut für Immersive Medien Kiel, 38-57. Marburg: Schüren.

Bonner, Marc, Pablo Abend and Tanja Weber, Eds. 2017. Just Little Bits Of History Repeating. Medien | Nostalgie | Retromanie. Reihe Medienwelten, Bd. 28. Münster: LIT Verlag.

Bonner, Marc. 2016. „Rethinking Retrofuturism: Die Darstellung der Zukunft in Stadt- und Raumschiffkulissen im Rekurs auf etablierte Architekturstile.“ In Die Zukunft ist jetzt – Science-Fiction Kino als audio-visueller Entwurf von Geschichten(n), Räumen und Klängen, edited by Aidan Power, Delia González de Reufels, Rasmus Greiner, Winfried Paulheit and City 46/Kommunalkino Bremen e.V., 130-141 Berlin: Bertz & Fischer.

Bonner, Marc. 2015. „Ambiguous Play Pattern: A Philosophical Approach to the Refuge-Prospect Theory in Urban Open World Games by Merging Deleuze/Guattari and de Certeau.” In 9th International Conference on the Philosophy of Computer Games, Meaning and Computer Games Berlin, BTK Berlin 14.-17. Oktober 2015, Conference Proceedings, 1-16. URL:

Bonner, Marc. 2015. „APERchitecTURE – Interferierende Architektur- und Raumkonzepte als Agens der Aperture Sciences Inc.“ In ‚The cake is a lie‘. Polyperspektivische Betrachtungen des Computerspiels am Beispiel von ‚Portal‘. Reihe Medienwelten, Bd. 26, edited by Thomas Hensel, Britta Neitzel and Rolf F. Nohr,75-105 Münster: LIT Verlag.

Bonner, Marc. 2015. „Architektur als mediales Scharnier – Medialität und Bildlichkeit der raumzeitlichen Erfahrungswelten Architektur, Film und Computerspiel.“ In Image. Zeitschrift für interdisziplinäre Bildwissenschaft 21 (1):5-22. URL:

Bonner, Marc. 2015. „‚Form follows fun’ vs. ‚Form follows function‘: Architekturgeschichte und -theorie als Paradigmen urbaner Dystopien in Computerspielen.“ In New Game Plus: Neue Perspektiven der Game Studies. Bild und Bit Bd. 3, edited by Benjamin Beil, Gundolf S. Freyermuth and Lisa Gotto, 267-299. München: Transcript.

Bonner, Marc. 2014. Architektur ferner Welten – Santiago Calatravas skulpturales Architekturverständnis und die Bildhaftigkeit seiner Bauwerke in Wechselwirkung zu Werbung, Film, Musik, Computerspiel und Mode. Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag.

Bonner, Marc. 2014. „Analyzing the Correlation of Game Worlds and Built Reality: Depiction, Function and Mediality of Architecture and Urban Landscapes.“ In DiGRA Conference 2014, University of Utah, 03.-06. August 2014, Conference Proceedings, 1-14. URL:

Bonner, Marc. 2014. „Construction As A Condition To Win – Depiction Of Early Modern Architecture And Urban Landscapes In Strategy And Economic Simulation Games.“ In Early Modernity and Video Games, edited by Tobias Winnerling and Florian Kerschbaumer, 91-104. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Bonner, Marc. 2014. „Digitale Spielarchitektur und ihr leiblicher Raum – Über das affektive Erfahren des Spielers und den Transfer von Atmosphären gebauter Wirklichkeiten.“ In Zwischen|Welten. Atmosphären im Computerspiel, edited by Christian Huberts and Sebastian Standke, 210-223. Glückstadt: Verlag Werner Hülsbusch.


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