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Real Place Background

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Holy crap, that is my house!

"She refers to a phenomenon of moviegoing which I have called certification. Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere."

Everyone loves some good Scenery Porn every now and then. It's a wonderful means of immersion. If the creators make a background and scenery vibrant and detailed enough, you might even be able to convince yourself that you're actually there!

...Wait a second, is that my house?

Congratulations, you have just encountered the Real Place Background — a subset of Scenery Porn where the scenery in question is based on a real location. This goes beyond just simply making use of notable landmarks. Sometimes every building, storefront, stairway and streetpole will be lovingly re-created for the purposes of the show, no matter how inconsequential.

Locations used for this purpose tend to become the subject of otaku "pilgrimages", a prime example being the Washinomiya shrine which is used in Lucky Star.

This is far more common in TV shows, comics and games that are set in real places (e.g., New York, Tokyo, or Paris).


See No Communities Were Harmed when the setting is highly recognizable, but never gets mentioned by its proper name. Even a mix is possible, when the town is never mentioned by name, but settings like train stations or streets are. Attention to detail in backgrounds is one possible aspect of Shown Their Work.

Not to be confused with GIS Syndrome.

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     Comic Books  
  • The world of Calvin and Hobbes is based on the artist's home town, Chagrin Falls, OH, including the suburban atmosphere and the local trees, especially in this large graphic that appeared on the back of an early collection.
  • Many of the locations in Scott Pilgrim are based on actual Toronto landmarks and businesses. This is preserved in The Film of the Book, which filmed on location wherever possible, including hunting down the hole-in-the-concrete-wall apartment author Bryan Lee O'Malley used to live in.
  • Spider-Man: The Marvel Universe was renowned for being set in New York as opposed to the fictional cities of DC heroes, but even then Spider-Man still stood out originally for being the most tied to the city since the Fantastic Four had global and cosmic adventures while Dr. Strange likewise was an esoteric figure:
    • A number of famous stories and plots use real-life places and monuments. Most notably, Gwen Stacy died at the George Washington bridge (though confusingly Romita Sr. modeled it on the Brooklyn Bride in the issue) and it's not uncommon for real life tourists and visitors to treat the real bridge as a memorial to her fictional death. Likewise, Peter and MJ's famous Make-Out Point is the top of the Empire State Building, celebrated as their spot since the Wedding annual, and revisited in Matt Fraction's "To Have and to Hold" as well as Spider-Island.
    • Marvel actually got into trouble for this in Amazing Spider-Man Issue #138. Ross Andru, Gerry Conway's collaborator, was fond of taking photographs and inserting real architecture into his backgrounds. However for one issue he used a real house in Queens and made it into the location of the Mindworm. Readers in that area however recognized the house and immediately went over and pestered the owners about its unintended celebrity as the lair of the Mindworm which led the owners to sue Marvel and settle, and after that Marvel saw fit to disguise their use of locations better.

  • Berlin Alexanderplatz was was praised in its time for its vivid use of actual Berlin street-names and places, actual newspapers, as well as cut-outs of real-world events into the text. It's often considered a German equivalent of Ulysses. The 1931 Film version was shot in the real-life Alexanderplatz, however Fassbinder's miniseries could not really achieve thisnote  so he more or less set most of the action in interiors rather than exteriors (except for the finale set in the forest).
  • Walker Percy's The Moviegoer describes this as "certification", and it refers to a scene in the novel (set in 50s New Orleans) where characters go to see Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets, a Hollywood movie that was shot on location in New Orleans (and made in the fifties'note  and experience this feeling after seeing familiar streets and locations and then stepping out the theater and noting how uncanny it is to see the same world outside that was on the screen.
  • James Joyce's Ulysses was famous for its meticulous use of real uses and locations, down to street names and addresses. Joyce used actual guidebooks, phone directories and other reference material to achieve his vision.


  • High Speed has the playfield freeways labeled after their Real Life counterparts — the Bayshore Freeway (route 101), the Santa Monica Freeway (interstate 10), and the San Diego Freeway (interstate 5).
  • The backglass for Checkpoint features Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle in the background.

     Video Games  

  • The fourth game in the Police Quest series took this approach, using photographs of real-life LA scenery and scanning them in as the background shots.
  • True Crime: Streets of L.A. featured a rather extensive 240-square-mile re-creation of Los Angeles and its surrounding area, down to the individual street names and landmarks.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series, starting with San Andreas. Many a player was surprised at the level of detail that went into the fictional versions of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Likewise for GTA IV and NYC.
  • The World Ends with You contains a remarkably faithful recreation of Shibuya, barring the stylish yet impossible angles of skyscrapers and the fact that none of the stores are the brands they should be.
  • The tracks in Project Gotham Racing 2 are so accurate that one Scottish gamer was able to identify a store he used to frequent on an Edinburgh track.
  • A lot of effort was put into replicating London in The Getaway. You can find the pub you burn down in real life; the screenshots are as similar as the page image.
  • The MMO Silkroad Online is based on the real Silk Road. Most of the deserts, docks and cave entrances are identical to the actual Silk Road.
    • To a lesser extent the cities, being much smaller than the real life counterpart, only a small part of the cities is present in the game.
  • Fallout 3 uses the Washington Metro area for its Capital Wasteland. Of course, the scenery is all blasted and post-apocalyptic, but there are several places where you can see what the real-life equivalent would look like if it got blown up.
    • Fallout: New Vegas is even better at this. Even the little ghost town you start the game in, Goodsprings, is a real-life location; the bar and general store are lifted straight from the real ones. At least in the broad strokes, the biggest difference between the New Vegas map and the actual map of southern Nevada is that the distances are a lot shorter in the game. In most cases the relative placement is fairly accurate (though some of the buildings on the New Vegas Strip itself are on the opposite side of the road from their closest real world analogue).
  • Project Reality includes several real cities and locales among the map roster, such as several cities in Iraq and Lebanon.
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series contains numberous locations recreated painstakingly from the Real Life Chernobyl exclusion zone. In some cases the only differences are the distances between locations. And the mutants. We hope.
  • The Modern Warfare series loves using real places as backdrops for its levels.
    • The first game's missions "All Ghillied Up" and "One Shot, One Kill" take place in Pripyat, Ukraine. The levels are themselves an accurate recreation of the desolate city's environs modeled from photographs of the real thing.
    • Modern Warfare 2 combined this trope with Scenery Gorn in their depiction of Washington, D.C., to horrifying effect. Fight in the trenches in the National Mall! Take out SAM sites atop the Robert F. Kennedy Building! Obliterate the World War II Memorial with a minigun!
    • The very first level of the third game has a reasonably faithful interpretation of Wall and Broad Streets, the Federal Hall, the New York Stock Exchange (including a firefight on the trading floor), and surrounding environs. It's immediately followed by a swim through the (collapsed) Battery Park Tunnel out to New York Harbor, and a further level has a Chase Fight through an actual, operating London Underground tunnel from Canary Wharf to Westminster. And while the name has been changed to "Hotel Oasis", it's still pretty obvious "Dust to Dust" takes place inside a recreated Burj Al-Arab.
  • In the background of one of the levels in the Japan-only PSX platformer The Adventure Of Little Ralph, a damaged Florence Cathedral sits randomly among other ruined European-esque structures.
  • Kentucky Route Zero is set in the real-life US state of Kentucky and the area shown on the map is a section of Interstate 65 between Elizabethtown and Bowling Green. The roads on the map actually exist and their real-life names and highway numbers are used. However, the actual locations such as Equus Oil and the burning tree are fictional.
  • DayZ uses the same map as ARMA II, so the geography and building placement are lifted from a real area in the Czech Republic. The in-game map is so accurate that you can actually use it to navigate the real area.
  • ARMA III is so dedicated to this, that some of the devs got in trouble when the research they were doing was mistaken as being espionage.
  • The Carol Reed Mysteries use real locations in Norrköping, Sweden as that was the creator's hometown. He and his wife would take thousands of photos of their town and use it as the setting in each game.
  • Several towns in Ragnarok Online are based off real-life cultures. Players have spotted buildings that correspond to their real-life counterparts that you can visit in real life.
  • Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is set in Tokyo and it shows - the player's Mission Control is in the shopping mall Nakano Broadway, you can go to Shibya, you can stand outside the Sega building in Akihabara (and this doesn't need to be pointed out - it has Sega's actual logo) and the famous railway station is even a dungeon.
  • Akiba's Trip, which is set within Akihabara, faithfully recreates Akihabara down to the finest details.
  • Inverted for Assassin's Creed, where a screenshot of the game was accidentally used in a news report about the Middle East.

     Visual Novels  

  • 7th Expansion's sound novels use mostly photo-shopped filtered photos as backgrounds, so this is bound to happen.
  • Filtered photos, this time of Brown University, are also the basis for Katawa Shoujo's Yamaku Academy.
    • The local geography, though, is largely based on the city of Sendai, with Yamaku apparently sitting on the steep hill between the Sendai Zoo, the ruins of Aoba castle, and two campuses (Aobayama and Kawauchi) of Tohoku University.
  • In general, any indie visual novel that utilizes filtered photos as backgrounds will invoke this.
  • Nekopara is set in Yokohama and uses a few real places within that city, most notably by the bay.

     Web Comics  

     Western Animation