The impossible architecture of video games

version

Who loves ya, baby?
Borges would have a field day with this stuff.

https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-02-12-the-impossible-architecture-of-video-games

There is a saying in architecture that no building is unbuildable, only unbuilt. Structures may be impossible in the here and now, but have the potential to exist given enough time or technological development: a futuristic cityscape, a spacefaring megastructure, the ruins of an alien civilisation. However, there are also buildings that defy the physical laws of space. It is not an issue that they could not exist, but that they should not. Their forms bend and warp in unthinkable ways; dream-like structures that push spatial logic to its breaking point.

The Tomb of Porsena is a legendary monument built to house the body of an Etruscan king. 400 years after its construction, the Roman scholar Varro gave a detailed description of the ancient structure. A giant stone base rose 50 feet high, beneath it lay an "inextricable labyrinth", and atop it sat five pyramids. Above this was a brass sphere, four more pyramids, a platform and then a final five pyramids. The image painted by Varro, one of shapes stacked upon shapes, seems like a wild exaggeration. Despite this, Varro's fanciful description sparked the imaginations of countless architects over the centuries. The tomb was an enigma, and yet the difficulty in conceptualising it, and the vision behind it, was fascinating. On paper artists were free to realise its potential. If paper liberated minds, the screen can surely open up further possibilities. There's no shortage of visionary structures within the virtual spaces of video games. These are strange buildings that ask us to imagine worlds radically different to our own.


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poetix

we murder to dissect
Bloodborne's level design seems crazier and crazier the deeper you get into it - at first it's just grandiose and ornate, but it becomes increasingly Escher-like, looping and spiralling, with unexpected connections between areas (and at least one pair of locked doors that never open that somehow bogglingly turn out to be the same locked door approached from different sides).
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I didn't get far as I don't have the patience for those games, but they all look incredible. My brother's one of those nuts who completes them over and over with specific weapons and whatnot and I remember being really taken with the ash lake in one of the Souls games when I saw it. That thing of gradually being able to see those weird eldritch horrors in Bloodborne was really cool too, that huge insect thing crawling up the tower.

 
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luka

Well-known member
Staff member
Reading about that game I've got an intense urge to run down to Lewisham CEX and buy a copy but also I've developed a very deep seated paranoia about video games. I think they lower my vibrational frequency to a disastrous extent and possibly trick me into making deals with demons.
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
Yeah, I've always felt the tug of those world building RPG things. I like the voluminous guidebooks/rule books to role playing games. It's fiction without the fiction. These are the races, these are the planets, these are the weapons, these are the magic powers.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
Those particular games - Dark Souls, Bloodborne - are incredibly grueling and I prefer looking at them to playing them. The actual gameplay is hours and hours of fighting the same enemy and repeatedly dying, to the point where the tagline for one of them was 'prepare to die'.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I often find the environment the most engaging part of these big, sprawling games now. I'm not really interested in playing the story of something like Red Dead, but just watching clips of people trekking through the snow in the mountains or whatever on it is amazing.

 
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Corpsey

call me big papa
Red Dead is worth playing just for riding around on a horse, hunting deer, fishing, etc.

Extra points if you turn off the map and all that and go for full immersion in mountainman world.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I definitely feel that we've only scratched the surface in terms of what you could build in video games. Imagine something on the scale of GTA or Red Dead but totally abstracted and unbound by real-world physics.
 

poetix

we murder to dissect
I've about 2/3rds of the way through my second run through Bloodborne, so I've obviously played far too much of it. It is "immersive" in an almost spiritual sense, though - it really gets under your skin. The sound design has a lot to do with that - lots of eerie susurrations, like cursed ASMR. And the reinforcement through repetition - running again and again into a confrontation with the boss you nearly killed last time.

What has Bloodborne done to me? How has it changed me? I'm not sure, but it seems impossible that it hasn't in some way...
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
I liked in old games (it probably still holds for new games) how there would be bits of the scenery that you could see but never get to, or could only see a part of, so that you could imagine the world extending forever. The less sophisticated the graphics and storytelling/dialogue etc. the more stimulation there was for your imagination.

Red Dead's world has this sense of amazing palpability. You feel as if it all exists, all the time. But it's also ALL THERE (at least as far as I played).
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
Only being able to see part of something too big to see, that tickles my spine in some way or other



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO9aot9RgQc
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
I liked in old games (it probably still holds for new games) how there would be bits of the scenery that you could see but never get to, or could only see a part of, so that you could imagine the world extending forever. The less sophisticated the graphics and storytelling/dialogue etc. the more stimulation there was for your imagination.

Red Dead's world has this sense of amazing palpability. You feel as if it all exists, all the time. But it's also ALL THERE (at least as far as I played).

A game like Doom for instance which had views out of windows into a space you could never access had a very magical sense of possibility. This forbidden space which is both in game and beyond game.
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
Knowing you Version you will have read about the literally impossible architecture of the Overlook hotel
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I liked in old games (it probably still holds for new games) how there would be bits of the scenery that you could see but never get to, or could only see a part of, so that you could imagine the world extending forever. The less sophisticated the graphics and storytelling/dialogue etc. the more stimulation there was for your imagination.

The mist in Silent Hill was because they couldn't render the whole environment, like Burial covering his drums in crackle to hide the gaps.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
Knowing you Version you will have read about the literally impossible architecture of the Overlook hotel

I haven't actually. I am fascinated by the hotel though. That massive red and white bathroom, the huge hall where he writes and the maze.
 
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