Grid reference 43S CT 38006 82324

About the project

Grid reference 43S CT 38006 82324 is a series of maps created using elevation data from map tiles in the 2009 first-person shooter game Delta Force: Xtreme 2 (DFX2). A guide to the game was found during the May 1, 2011 raid to kill Osama bin Laden.

Background

On the four-year anniversary of the raid to kill bin Laden the United States' Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released
a partial list of books and other media seized during the raid. Included in this list is a subsection of "Documents Probably Used by Other Compound Residents", which includes a listing of a "Delta Force Extreme 2 [sic] Videogame Guide". What fascinated me about this was the idea that for bin Laden, who could see little or nothing of the outside world in order to maintain his security, landscape seen in a game or in books might be all he could see for years. Ironically DFX2's story line is about tracking and killing a bin Laden-like figure, and so it also seemed strange to me that this landscape was being simultaneously being viewed by players fantasizing about bin Laden's death. This landscape for me seemed like a contested space worth exploring. I found that for me, playing the game was unsatisfying in knowing the space, and I thought about translating it into something that I know: a map.

Process

I purchased the game and after research on a number of game forums extracted the game's elevation data files used by the game engine to create landscapes. Using a number of freeware tools build by the DFX2 modding community I converted the files into RAW format raster images readable in Adobe Photoshop, and then into TIFF format images readable in ArcGIS. Using ArcGIS I projected the rasters using the location of Osama bin Laden's compound, georeferenced them, and then converted the resulting rasters to contour lines. Using a couple of old 1:50,000 military maps as guides I designed 1:25,000 maps using these contour files in Adobe Illustrator.