David L. Pike’s books—2005’s Subterranean Cities and the just-published Metropolis on the Styx—explore the cultural history of underground spaces in the modern city and the role of these forbidding places in the modern imagination.
Focusing on London and Paris, Pike’s books guide readers through the labyrinths, both physical and psychical, that lurk beneath the sidewalks and present, according to novelist and psychogeographer Iain Sinclair, “a considerable work of urban archaeology, textual burrowing, and headlong epiphany. . . . [in which] cities of metaphor are mapped from clues found in lost libraries, on excursions to catacombs, movie houses, sepulchres, and sewers.”
Tapping into this same fascination with the chthonic, the creators of the highly anticipated PC/online game Hellgate: London set their adventure in a post-apocalyptic London that has been overrun by hordes of terrifying demons, leaving the city desolate and forcing the unlucky survivors to the only sanctuary left, the Underground, banded together in order to gain a foothold against the minions of darkness and ultimately save the bloodline of humanity.
While we can’t guarantee gamers that these books will help them defeat their virtual opponents, they do offer a larger cultural, historical, and imaginative context in which to think about the game’s setting.