Play­ing Ital­ian

Italy’s place within videogames is well es­tab­lished, but a new ini­tia­tive seeks to take it to the next level

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How IVIPRO is plan­ning to grow Italy’s in­flu­ence through­out gam­ing

De­vel­op­ers search­ing for in­spi­ra­tion now have a new re­source thanks to the cre­ation of an or­gan­i­sa­tion ded­i­cated to show­cas­ing the cities and land­scapes of Italy. Called the Ital­ian Videogame Pro­gram, or IVIPRO, the in­sti­tu­tion is amass­ing an enor­mous data­base to rep­re­sent some of the coun­try’s most evoca­tive and cul­tur­ally rich lo­ca­tions.

IVIPRO, staffed by five peo­ple, is build­ing its col­lec­tion with the help of tourist boards and cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions, but founder An­drea Dresseno knows that cer­tain lo­ca­tions will be of more in­ter­est than oth­ers. “An­cient vil­lages and vil­las, fortresses, aban­doned build­ings, and mon­u­ments,” he sug­gests. “Lo­cal folklore mix­ing in with his­tory and le­gends can fur­ther con­trib­ute to the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of a lo­ca­tion.”

IVIPRO will also present the his­to­ries be­hind the lo­ca­tions. “A place is not only ar­chi­tec­ture but also a po­ten­tial story,” Dresseno says. “I’m think­ing of lo­ca­tions where im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal events took place, like in As­sas­sin’s Creed II.” And it’ll present the ob­jects found within them: “Even a paint­ing can be­come an aes­thetic or the­matic in­spi­ra­tion for a videogame.”

Once the first part is launched later this year, de­vel­op­ers will have free ac­cess to the data­base, which is search­able via tags. Dresseno uses the ex­am­ple of some­one mak­ing a game about witch­craft and com­ing across Tri­ora, a town in Lig­uria, north-western Italy, where witch­craft tri­als took place in the 16th cen­tury and which fea­tures a medieval ci­tadel. From there, IVIPRO will of­fer fur­ther re­search into themes and spe­cific lo­ca­tions and will put de­vel­op­ers in touch with the lo­cal film com­mis­sion, which may be able to help with or­gan­is­ing field trips and ac­cess to pri­vate prop­erty.

Italy is al­ready a com­mon in­spi­ra­tion for videogames, most promi­nently in the As­sas­sin’s Creed se­ries, in which Rome, Florence, Venice and the Tuscan hill town of Mon­terig­gioni have taken star­ring roles. Mon­terig­gioni’s tourist site fea­tures a vis­i­tor itin­er­ary based on the lo­ca­tions in As­sas­sin’s Creed II. More re­cently, The Coali­tion looked at Fen­estrelle Fort in the Alpine re­gion of Pied­mont for Gears Of War 4, and based the COG’s cap­i­tal city on the late Re­nais­sance fort town of Pal­manova, which fea­tures a strik­ingly geo­met­ric street plan.

See­ing Pal­manova’s po­ten­tial, IVIPRO has started work­ing with its coun­cil to reach out to other game de­vel­op­ers. Dresseno notes that as well as the ob­vi­ous at­trac­tion of its plan, there’s more to dis­cover, such as a se­ries of tun­nels that cross un­der the town and a rich his­tory. As a Vene­tian ci­tadel it was po­si­tioned to pro­tect its em­pire’s fron­tier against the Ot­tomans, and as a planned town it was de­signed to utopian ideals. All res­i­dents were to share equal sta­tus and the phys­i­cal shape of the town was in­tended to drive ev­ery­one to artis­tic, aca­demic and com­mer­cial heights.

“An­other very in­ter­est­ing star fort is Sab­bioneta in Lom­bardy,” Dresseno says, adding that, like Pal­manova, it’s a ‘mi­cro­cos­mos’: a highly self-con­tained place that works well for the tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions and cre­ative needs of games.

The ul­ti­mate aim of the project is to pro­mote Italy to the wider world. Cur­rently self-fi­nanced, IVIPRO is look­ing for back­ing for its long-term sur­vival, but it’s sup­ported by the Ital­ian cul­ture min­istry, the game-in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion AESVI, and na­tional and re­gional Film Com­mis­sions As­so­ci­a­tions.

“I con­sider videogames as a ve­hi­cle to pro­mote Ital­ian places and tell sto­ries of our cul­ture, much the same way as the film in­dus­try does,” Dresseno says. “They are dig­i­tal works in which en­ter­tain­ment and cul­ture can co­ex­ist. They can also bring ben­e­fits to tourism if lo­cal in­sti­tu­tions un­der­stand the mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties a videogame can cre­ate.”

Dresseno’s first in­ter­est in videogames’ re­la­tion­ship with the real world came when play­ing Bro­ken Sword and Gabriel

Knight 3. “The mys­tery of Rennes-leChâteau [in Gabriel Knight 3] cap­ti­vated me so much I de­cided to go there with two friends of mine,” he says. “I be­came in this way a videogame tourist.”

But as well as pro­mot­ing Italy as a place, he hopes it will help the lo­cal game in­dus­try. Although it’s still rel­a­tively small, AESVI an­nounced late last year the re­sults of a sur­vey that recorded a grow­ing num­ber of stu­dios and an uptick in over­all rev­enue. Dresseno is proud of sev­eral re­cent Ital­ian games, in­clud­ing

Wheels Of Aure­lia, the nar­ra­tive-based game in which you drive down the Ital­ian coast dur­ing the po­lit­i­cal as­sas­si­na­tions and kid­nap­pings of the ’70s, and The

Town Of Light, set in Volterra, Tus­cany, which fo­cused on the treat­ment of peo­ple with men­tal dis­or­ders be­fore a law closed all Ital­ian psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tals.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to deal with themes like this,” Dresseno says. “But I’m even hap­pier if a videogame deals with it. Videogames show that they can tell sto­ries of con­sid­er­able depth.”

“I con­sider videogames as a ve­hi­cle to pro­mote Ital­ian places and tell sto­ries of our cul­ture”

An­drea Dresseno heads IVIPRO, hav­ing es­tab­lished Archivio Vide­olu­dico, the first Ital­ian videogame ar­chive, in 2009

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