Fantasy Mapping

Future Islamic State Mapping and Computer-Game Cartography

Future Islamic State Map?As mentioned in the previous post, several maps purporting to show plans for an enlarged caliphate by the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) have been circulating on the Internet. The oddest of such maps has ben posted here. As noted by Media Matters, this map “was reported on InfoWars.com, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, … [and] appears to have originated in part from a video game called Victoria 2.”

Victoria 2 MapIn actuality, the map undoubtedly originated from a Victoria 2 base-map, as it is structured around the same idiosyncratic regional divisions used in the game; this can be seem by examining an actual map connected with the game, posted here. Apparently, an amateur cartographer has simply taken a Victoria 2 map and blackened in all of the regions that he (or, unlikely, she) envisages as future portions of an enlarged Islamic State. In doing so, the mapmaker reveals his own ignorance of the geography of Islam, as a number of important Muslim areas are excluded from the realm (such as Xinjiang in northwestern China), while a number of non-Muslim (and never-Muslim) areas are included, such as Burma.

Little is anything can be inferred about the visions of ISIS and its supporters from this map. Alex Jones, after all, is “often described as America’s leading conspiracy theorist,” according to the Wikipedia, and thus there is no telling where the map actually originated. I find the map interesting, however, because it shows the significance of game-oriented fantasy geography for perception of the actual world.

In general, I strongly support geography- and history-based games, as they can be a fantastic way for students to learn the basic structures of the world. Pedagogical scolds often tells us that learning basic facts is intellectually stultifying, as it relies on “rote memorization,” but the process can just as easily be accomplished from playing games, as long as the games in question are adequately connected to the real world. From what I have seen of Victoria 2, the historical mapping used in the game is sophisticated and relatively accurate. But that still does make it a serviceable base-map for geopolitical aspirations or fantasies. In the end, it is best to reserve gaming maps for gaming purposes.

 

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Some Strange Fantasy Maps

Drenai MapThe world of science fiction and fantasy is an excellent place to find strange maps, and few are stranger than the Drenai map posted here. David Gemmell’s Drenai series has prompted a number of fans to map the world depicted in the novels. Most are rather straightforward pictures of the author’s fantasy realm. One amateur cartographer, however, decided to map the world on the basis of the Earth analogues of the various societies portrayed in the series. To do this, he has smashed together the British Isles, France, North Africa, Iberia, Mongolia, Korea, and eastern China. Such a maneuver is odd enough, but the really bizarre feature is the doubling of eastern China. Note how the southeastern subcontinent is formed by two mirror images.

Tetrakon MapMaps used in fantasy game-playing can be quite intricate and sophisticated. Cartographers working in this genre, however, can also get carried away. The political map of Tetrakon posted here is impressively large, as can be gathered from the detail that I have also posted. The map looks fairly realistic at first glance, owing in part to fractal geometry; the use of self-similar patterns allows geographical features to remain distinct as one zooms in on any particular place. The problem is that in the real world, many coastlines are relatively smooth Tetrakon Map detailand straight. As a result, the Tetrakon map has a jarring appearance, as all of the land/sea patterns here are much the same.

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