The Role of Architecture in the Plausibility of Computer Games



Received: 23/04/2017

Accepted: 09/09/2017

Extended Abstract

Introduction and statement of the problem: It was not long after the appearance of a game entitled “Space war!” in 1962 that computer games were considered as a significant and profitable sector of the media industry. The 800-million-dollar record sale of “GTA 5” in its first day of release, showed how a successful game could be so popular and profitable. Statistics show that the gaming industry has had the fastest growth and is becoming the primary rival of the film industry. These facts show that computer games are not just entertainment for children, rather they are virtual environments for people of all ages that have spawned a serious multi-million-dollar industry. Many researchers have studied computer games from different perspectives, however, the role of architecture in the success and believability of computer games requires further study.

Theoretical background: In the electronic era, the proliferation of images dispersed through digital screens has sparked numerous discussions about the nature of reality. One of the authors who have written extensively about the relationship between image and reality in contemporary times is the French philosopher and cultural critic, Jean Baudrillard. By categorizing different stages of image, Baudrillard concludes that images can lose their relationship to reality and become simulacra. When simulacra and simulations proliferate, reality is replaced by virtual reality, resulting in a condition which Baudrillard calls “hyperreality”. Although Baudrillard proposes that images can have no relationship with reality, his theories nevertheless define images in relationship to reality, meaning that images need to be believable to be effective.

One of the important characteristics of many successful computer games is their ability to immerse the gamer in their narrative. Immersion is a significant part of the gaming experience, which allows the user to engage with virtual environments. This immersion is also found in other arts and media, but in computer games, it finds more developed expression. Jonathan Frome categorizes four emotions that are created in the player when playing computer games: game emotions, narrative emotions, artifact emotions and ecological emotions. He argues that a key component of the emotions experienced by the players depends on which role they take when they engage with videogames: observer-participant or actor-participant. It is in the latter role that the player determines what is shown on the screen and becomes immersed in the gaming experience. Thus, game emotions and the actor-participant role increase the believability of the virtual environments of games.

Methodology: This research is a result of a descriptive and analytic study of different types of computer games that have been critically and commercially successful in the past decade in order to determine the role of architecture in the believability of computer games. The goal has been to categorize the different approaches with which computer games simulate their environment and how architecture has been critical in each approach.

Results and discussion: At first, it is established that computer games have developed a significant industry and are a great expression of the power of virtual reality in the contemporary world. It is also argued that architecture is a powerful anchor in reality, the role of which is undeniable in the simulation and believability of virtual environments. The necessity of using architecture in games is linked to the different emotions that a player experiences in a game. The two keywords of “believability” and “aesthetics” that are engaged in “ecological emotions” and “artefact emotions” are the root cause of why architecture is used in the creation of virtual environments in games. These concepts are further strengthened via interactivity and the creation of the “actor-participant” roles within these virtual environments.

The influence of architecture in the believability of computer games can be described in four categories. In some games, it is the “Creation of Architecture in Time: the 4D Approach (Bird’s-Eye View)” in which interactivity occurs in the direct control and manipulation of buildings and cities. In this approach, the bird’s-eye view gives the player complete dominance over architecture and cities and by manipulating time, the player experiences an almost Gold-like control over the virtual environment.

In other games, the strategy is “Discovering and Interacting with Architecture: 3D Approach (Human Perspective)”. In these games, the player can enter the virtual environment and assume the role of the main character through which the story unfolds. In this context, the sense of sympathy with the main character, the human perspective and the highly detailed 3D modelling adds to the believability of the virtual environments. This approach can be itself subdivided into three categories: realistic approach, futuristic approach and mythical approach.

In other types of games, a two dimensional approach towards creating the virtual environment is evident. This approach is called “Illustrating Architecture and Place: The 2D Approach (Sectional Perspective)”. These games utilize graphic and animation techniques to bring 2D worlds to life. Here, the virtual environment is cut open through a sectional view and the player experiences spaces from an architectural perspective.

Conclusion: The advent of computer games and their rapid development has indicated their significance for our lives and the media industry. As was discussed earlier, computer games rely on different methods to immerse the player in their virtual environments. These methods all rely on anchoring the virtual imagery in lived reality. This is where architecture plays a prominent role, since it is one of the most fundamental aspects of our reality. However, the relationship between architecture and computer games is not one sided, since architects are beginning to use the technologies developed for creating the virtual environments of games to design real buildings. In this context, architects are going beyond their traditional tools and have begun using computer visualization and animation to create much more accurate representations of architectural designs. It is foreseeable that clients will be able to walk and interact with architectural projects just like a gamer would be able to do the same in the virtual environment of a game.

Considering the advent of computer games and their increasing interaction with other arts, it is important that the relationship between architecture and computer games is studied and developed in more detail. Although this subject matter is relatively new and often overlooked, it is important that we consider the virtual environments of games as a significant testing ground for architectural imagination and creativity. Moreover, the technologies used in the gaming industry can greatly benefit the architectural profession. Further still, an analysis of the visual and cognitive patterns of players in the virtual environment can offer important clues about our experience of architecture in the real world.

Prominent results:

Computer games have created an important industry in the electronic age. Games are no longer just entertainment for children, rather they are virtual testing grounds for our imagination and creativity. Most successful games of the past decade rely on creating believable environments in which the player immerses and follows the narrative of the game. In order for these virtual environments to be believable they need to be anchored in reality and create the right kind of emotions in the player. Architecture is an important anchor in games tying virtual reality to familiar reality, thus facilitating the right kind of emotions that immerse the players in the virtual experience. Different games use architecture in different ways in order to achieve immersive believability. These different approaches not only reveal interesting clues about our perception of the environment, but they also facilitate alternative methods of architectural design in both virtual and real environments.

English reference

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