According to the Financial Times, the world of game design—referring specifically to video games—is taking a page from construction and architecture. It continues to expand and become more lifelike. It all comes down to how space is used, and then extrapolating from there into questions like: will the doors open in or out? Is there enough light? Where will people gather?
Early video games used visuals as more metaphors for reality than realistic situations. A small icon often represented a building that would then open up into a much larger space, being much larger on the inside—more modern video games are taking a more grounded approach.
Of course, video games are not reality and do not have the same constraints. According to the Financial Times: “The most evocative games capture players’ hearts with architecture as pure blast of imagination. The submerged splendor of Zora’s Domain in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild leaves a lasting impression with its cool hues and drowned light, while the manor district of Ald’ruhn in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is memorably housed inside the shell of an ancient Emperor land-crab. These environments have stories to tell: the parallel stairways of differing heights in Dark Souls’ Anor Londo nod to a history where giants walked among humans. while learning to read the gravity-defying architecture left by the alien Nomai in Outer Wilds is the key to solving the game’s mysteries.”
However, even in these games where design is removed from reality, game developers have to rely more on architecture principles than they ever have before. And many developers are embracing the challenge, taking their inspiration directly from real-world architects. Some examples include the castles in the games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, which are inspired by the French architect Gerard Trignac, or the Atlantis of Rapture in Bioshock, an allusion to Fritz Lang, and Halo’s alien architecture reflects Erienne-Louis Boullee.
And, of course, no discussion of architecture in video games can be complete without referencing the mammoth Minecraft. While blocky in aesthetics, perhaps no other game gives players the experience of creating spaces, utilizing environments for building structures, and managing project resources. The United Nations program “Block by Block” actually gives away Minecraft to people in developing nations to help them learn how to build safer spaces, resulting directly in real-world construction projects everywhere from Kosovo to Hanoi to Johannesburg.