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Top 10: The architecture of computer games (pt II)


The Architects’ Journal selects the finest architecture from the worlds of computer and video games

< Back to part one

5. Scumm Bar, The Secret of Monkey Island

Scumm Bar on the Caribbean island of Mêlée is constructed on a floating timber deck system for 360-degree sea views. The decor may have seen better days but there remains a certain authentic charm, with exposed structural oak and arched windows typical of the West Indian colonial style. Prince Charles would no doubt approve. Rough plastered walls softened by red velvet drapes are a stylistic combination attempted - but not bettered - by many taverns in the Tri-Island area.

4. Halo, Halo II

The prevalent use of local sandstone and homogeneous approach to design make for an environment that is comparable to the Regency spa towns of Harrogate or Bath. The indigenous material is ubiquitous - whether left rough in rural settings (to encourage the growth of moss and lichens) or finished smooth for urban environments, it lends a sense of grandeur to the to local buildings. The warren-like town planning of many of Halo’s urban centres and individual buildings, originally designed to improve sociability, have since been devastated by ethnic warfare between humans and the aliens of the Covenant.

3. Liberty City, Grand Theft Auto IV

Liberty City is Richard Rogers’ worst nightmare: a city designed for those in love with cars. The former advisor to the London Mayor, should he visit, is more likely to be mowed down by an out-of-control automobile than sip an overpriced latte in a pedestrianised piazza peppered with parasols. Yet, despite the evident dangers, people flock to live here. Perhaps its the dramatic sunsets, the coastal location or Liberty City’s aesthetic affinity with the Big Apple. Just don’t call it an Eco-town!

2. The City, Sim City

Sim City is the kind of place that could spring up overnight. Like a high class favela, it’s an ad-hoc civilisation of strange and wonderful hybrid buildings. Architectural forms are born out of a clash between modern technology and traditional values. The city’s mayor clearly cares little for sensitive zoning and long-term masterplanning. Pagoda roofs sit atop concrete-clad high density housing towers as a nod to both ancient Eastern building practices and prefabricated modular buildings in the West.

1. Azeroth, World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft

Azeroth, World of Warcraft, Architecture of the Blood Elves

The stunning diversity of buildings of Azeroth secures it the top spot. Towering Gothic structures recall the ‘dreaming spires’ of Oxford given a subversive geometrical revamp. The architecture of the Blood Elves, on the other hand, has softer, more organic influences. Similar to Gaudi’s Parc Guell or Sagrada Familia, nature is expressed in stylised form - the very essence of Art Nouveau.

See Top 10: architecture of Star Wars


Readers' comments (8)

  • How could you miss devil may cry Gaudi would be proud of the buildings in it.

    also in fallout 3 the epic architectural graveyard that are the ruins of DC is a beautiful as they are disturbing.

    And finally I find that my Sims live in a utopia that includes both the unite and the villa Savoye even if they are poor copies

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  • Manfred Piles digs this series...it is the most tenuous link to architecture but entertaining nevertheless. Can someone tell Manfred what the f--- Scumm Bar the Secret of Monkey Island is...

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  • I think someone forgot about the Unreal Series... all of them are overflowing with architectural superiority. Seriously, wow.

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  • ..and how about Wipeout HD's futurist brutalism and modernism?? ;-)


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  • We could have gone on forever with this one - let us know your other ideas. Other runners and riders included Pacman's maze, Hyrule from the Zelda series, Unreal Tournament, Half Life, all the old Sierra games (Kings Quest, Space Quest), Myst etc etc...

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  • I really enjoyed this article even if it is tongue-in-cheek. Video games and Architecture are two things that I've always had a strong interest in.

    I would love to see a more serious version of this article... perhaps as an Annual were the games of the last year are compared and awards are given to the most innovative and functionally appropriate designs.

    More recently with the advance in graphics technology a lot of games are being taken more seriously as art. Those who design the buildings and structures within them are in themselves architects, though their "clients" have very different needs.

    I think putting more attention into this aspect of video games might encourage game developers to take their architecture more seriously, and perhaps even reach out to legitimate architects for design and direction.

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  • Shame that this article was not more serious.

    As a graduate architect working in the games industry for over 10 years there are numerous examples where architecture has played an important role, enhancing the gamers experience. Witnessing Sony's vison of Greek Mythology in God of War or Valve's use of materials and color in the environment to define "teams" within Team Fortress 2 are both excellent examples of Architecture being used to it's fullest. As games eclipse the entertainment industry the value of architecture (and the architect) in games to define and enhance an experience is something that many progressive companies are not taking for granted.

    ...or we can talk about pong...

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  • Yes, Wipeout. All of them. Not only do these games feature some of the best postmodernist and futurist architecture in video games, they also have the brilliant graphic design of the The Designers Republic displayed all throughout the cities.


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