08:46AM Dec 15, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila






Looking at video games with an artistic eye and analyzing the architecture and design aspect of some of the most popular and appraised ones, I had the opportunity to see and understand things that one wouldn’t normally glance at while submerged deep within a playing state. Firstly, I learned that even though in the past the primary function of architecture in games was to support the gameplay, nowadays videogame artists are putting just as much effort and creative ideas into designing the world in which the characters get to evolve. Some of the videogames presented in this journal have been rightfully considered works of art and displayed in museums around the globe.  Secondly I discovered that maybe some of the most profusely used environments are industrial ones, dominated by steel structures, dilapidated buildings, with powerful lightning and reflective glass, a generally cold, impersonal setting that augments the suspense and adds to the player’s overall experience.


Some games make reference to real buildings or architecture currents in order to evoke some ideas or emotions. Other games allow the player to create their own built environment or straightforwardly provide new architecture which emanates a sense of unfamiliarity, of surprise and discovery.


“Architecture -- meaning both landscapes and structures -- is what turns the bare grid of the chessboard into the living world of the computer game. Its importance is on a par with character design in creating the player's visual experience. Character design tells you who you are; architecture tells you where you are. But more than that, it also tells you what might happen to you there, and even sometimes what you ought to be doing.”
CMP Media  Inc (








08:45AM Dec 15, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila


15.       Bioshock:




The world of Bioshock:


Bioshock tells the story of an underwater metropolis called Rupture. Rupture is however not the typical sunken city with undulating walls following the curves of the waves, but rather its exterior facades and architectural flavor are reminiscent of what major cities in that time period looked like:



Manhattan, 1948                                                Rupture






The Art Deco city, apart from the additional neon lights and banners looks very similar to old Manhattan. However, going on a more microscopically scale, as the player passes through the tubular, transparent, glass tunnels and bridges, he cannot fail to notice the ways in which the beauty of the underwater world is brought inside the structure. By choosing translucent materials, the designers put on display, like an endless continuously transforming movie, the oceanic universe.


Rupture is defined by its unique angular designs and contrasting curves, its skillfully placed glass walls and use of bronze-like metals set in layers –an overall 1950’s art deco style. After exploring this submerged world, one is left contemplating at the distinct, successful blending of such a realistic city with the meandering underwater world.





















The Sims

08:34AM Dec 15, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila


14.       The Sims:


The Sims is a strategic life-simulation video game developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts, in which the player has the opportunity to create a family (or even just one character), buy (or build a house from scratch) and after moving in the player can then start controlling the life of that specific family (which includes managing a job, household chores, relationships etc).


I will focus on the building houses aspect of the game, which is almost limitless in terms of ideas, resources, available materials and blueprints. I would sometimes find myself spending countless hours building houses that used to only reside in my imagination and soon discovered that there is a sims community dedicated to the architecture in this game, where players share their concepts and buildings.


This very modernist building makes me thing of not only Wright’s Falling Water Villa perched over a stream, but also of Mies’ Glass House that only has a frame of steel elements and is otherwise encased in a glass box. Bathed in the colors of the sunset that reflect off the translucent surface of the walls, the house in this picture is very simplistic, geometric, yet highly effective. Just like in the Connecticut Glass House, this residence has an oasis of privacy located at the heart of the house, where the bathroom and some closet space are enclosed. Placed out in the middle of the landscape, this house brings in the picturesque scenery. It has been reduced to its essentials; it has a structural steel frame is very clearly expressed on the exterior, vertical pilotis, a floor plane and a roof plane filled in with glass walls. The house speaks of disciplined rationality, precision and regularity and is nevertheless a completely dematerialized residence.



Set into the hillside and following the downwards slope of the mount, this next house strikes through its suspended, hovering forms in space. The mixture of materials (concrete, wood veneer, steel, glass, iron fencing) adds to the eccentricity of the house. The very boxy, geometrical forms of the house, the ribbon of large windows randomly interrupted, its accentuated horizontality (through the switching of materials) point to its modernity yet also uniqueness.



A very minimalist black and white, one floor house, this residence also resembles Mies’ disciplined rational style. Very simplistic in its design, the house consists out of two rectangular blocks composed out of a floor and roof plane filled with white concrete walls or glass walls facing the pool or marking the entrance of the house. It is reduced to its fundamental essentials and it hasn’t been designed to meet the needs of the individual, but rather just like with Mies’ case, the residence bears a generalized quality and an industrial feeling due to its expansive areas of glass, steel and monochromatic palette.







11:15PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila

13.       Echochrome:






The world of Echochrome:


 The gameplay of Echochrome involves a mannequin figure traversing a rotatable world where physics and reality depend on perspective. The world is occupied by Oscar Reutersvärd's impossible constructions and the concept is inspired by M. C. Escher's artwork, such as "Relativity".



Stairs can sometimes become an architect’s nightmare and in this game they certainly are. The player has to shift and rotate perspectives in order to find an angle from which stairs and passageways appear to be connected (which then offers the player the possibility to advance).


In order to understand Echochrome’s gameplay mechanics the developers have had to define the five laws of this amazing puzzle game:


  1. Perspective traveling: change the perspective, and connect the path.
  2. Perspective landing: the character will land on whatever appears to be below.
  3. Perspective existence: you may not be able to see it, but there is a path.
  4. Perspective absence: hide the obstruction, and it no longer exists.
  5. Perspective jump: where you want to jump is up to you.


Here is a video visually explaining the laws of the game:


Echochrome has been featured in the Museum of Modern Art and is without a doubt a mind-bending experience that made me think about the potency of simple structures and the way they change as we move around or change perspectives. One of the beauties of this game is that once the player masters the five laws, he can then pass to creating his own levels and more intricate world of stairs, pillars, walkways. Therefore, although simplistic in its design, Echochrome manages to provide gamers with puzzle gameplay that is both fun and addictive while drawing gamers in with its elegant yet straightforward graphics which explore infinity, architecture and impossible constructions. 



Battlefield 3

11:12PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila


 12.       Battlefield 3:






The world of Battlefield 3:


With Battlefield 3, players step into the role of the elite US Marines. As the first “boots” on the ground, the teams experience high-suspense, tensioned missions across a multitude of locations, amongst which are Paris, Iraq, Teheran.


One of the main things that caught my eye as far as architecture and design are concerned is the overall look of the cities, especially the ones depicted in the selected photos, that reminds me of home. The white concrete buildings with highly accentuated vertical and horizontal elements resemble the apartment blocks that I grew up in.


Some buildings have each floor marked by horizontal parallel slabs that protrude a little from the smooth walls, while others have tall pilasters running vertically along the height of the building, leading the player’s eye all the way up to the sky. The maps the player gets to explore are dominated by medium-tall white ghostly buildings that contribute to giving an impression of abandonment, loneliness and austerity, feelings nevertheless related to the war that is taking place.








Portal 2

11:05PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila

11.       Portal 2:







The world of Portal 2:


Portal 2 is perhaps one of my favorite video games. Making a 180 degree turn from the first-person shooter games and proposing a world of puzzles where each room is a new challenge where the player has to figure his way out and onto the next level, Portal 2 has been rightfully nominated and made its way on 2011 best video games list.


Breaking the laws of spatial physics in ways never thought possible with myriad portal puzzles, Portal 2 is a masterpiece, “part abstract brainteaser, part sci-fi thriller, part black comedy”.(Charlie Brooker, the Guardian UK). The game primarily comprises a series of puzzles that must be solved by teleporting the player's character and simple objects using the "portal gun", a device that can create inter-spatial portals between two flat planes. The game's physics allow momentum to be retained through these portals, which must be used creatively to maneuver through the game's challenges.



Each chamber was first developed through whiteboard via isometric drawings.  As soon as the artists thought the space was ready they would add elements such as thorough texturing, vibrant lighting and vegetation for rendering within an advanced version of the Source game engine. The actual puzzle solving spaces look incredibly pristine, with smooth walls constructed out of concrete plates that constitute the only decorative element. The grid like floor and the rectangularly divided walls set the tone for a very logical environment and announce the player that this a place where math and rationality are highly encouraged if not required.  The transitional spaces between the chambers consist (as shown in the below pictures) of high-end elevators that transport the player from one level to another in the blink of an eye and long, metallic bridges and dark corridors. While walking along these bridges and corridors one cannot fail to notice the vexing contrast between the well lit, sleek testing chambers and the unknown, gloomy walkways surrounded by structural details and industrial heavy machinery, scarps and scattered robotic parts.














Fallout 3

10:58PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila

10.       Fallout 3:








The world of Fallout 3:


Fallout 3 is a game set in the 1950’s and to be more exact its visuals are based on Science Fiction from the 1950’s. Therefore the action of the game is set to happen in 2077, but instead of having a very futuristic overall look, Fallout 3 presents the 1950’s culture imagined into the future, a dimension not based on our reality but rather on the imagination of those in the past.


Being a first-person shooter game, the cities propose again a very industrial environment with heavy machinery, construction sites, demolished spaces that are left showing the inner structure and metal core of what once used to rise valiantly towards the sky.


The interior spaces are however the ones that caught my eye in this game.  The well lit rooms are infused with technology and simply radiate sleekness and state-of-the-art ideas.

The swooping, curving lines of the walls, stairs and interior bridges leading from one floor to the other and connecting various areas add to the overall smooth, high-tech quality of these interiors. In the picture below one can see how impressive and effective the design of such a space is.  With a focal elevator-like shaft around which the whole space then gravitates, this interior looks very futuristic and organic (like the inner workings of a plant). The multitude of tube lights and spotlights brighten and elevate this interior to suggest a technological heaven.








Batman Arkham City

10:55PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila


9.     Batman Arkham City:





The world of Batman Arkham City:


For this particular game I wanted to start with some ideas and an excerpt from a blog written by Andrew Lavigne  (


Arkham City's architecture and art design present the players with a seemingly endless, horizon-feeling space that they can explore and that's crowded everywhere by its art details. Ugly but pretty for it, the game presents us with a city-within-a-city where decaying factories mix with carnivals and Art Deco and 1800s construction, all finished with a Noir paintbrush. The city thus resembles dark fantasy art.



The slick visuals--full of neon green signs, rusted factory towers, highways that fall into the sea, and Deco statues--crowd the screen so much that they crowd the player. Little details like bits of dirty snow hanging off buildings or political posters further overwhelm the player. The feeling it gives off is of being in hell, comprised less of sensible city zoning regulations and more of "layers" shoved together. 

But for once, this isn't a bad thing. This isn't a case of developers gone wild. This is exactly what fits the situation: a contrast of controlled anarchy, represented by world and art design. Delving into the underbelly of the game world, when the player encounters a buried "City of Tomorrow"-type Deco area, we realize that it exactly matches the message played over its intercoms: if mankind continues its upwards ascent, the buildings will grow to resemble hell breaking through the sidewalks, up and up and up, until we choke to death and are no more.

Does that mean Batman: Arkham City is the first game to not only include fantastical architecture, but to include and comment on its architecture and city spatial dimensions?”

 In response to this article I also feel that the architecture is very cleverly emphasized at key points in the game. The buildings and structures create an eerie, dark environment that evolves, moves and flows along with the player. The myriad details (sculptures, street signs, supporting structures, diverse materials and wide palette of rusted dusty colors) lead to the creation of an almost overwhelming world that yet strikes the player with its beauty and level of description. The universe of Batman Arkham City is one that sits on the edge between a known universe (ours) and a completely imaginative one. Its towering glass and concrete skyscrapers bring a familiar modernity into this dark city, while the playful, colorful Joker factories add a new witty dimension to the city.








Mass Effect

10:47PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila


8.     Mass Effect:






The Citadel



The world of Mass Effect:



Mass Effect unravels itself in front of the player as a crystalline purple and blue universe composed of towering glass skyscrapers outlined in sunset colored lights during the night and permeated by luminosity and airiness during the day. The tall, sleek buildings look like colossal high tech gadgets and rise like guardians over the city, surveying the sky for possible enemies.


Mass Effect’s universe gravitates around the Citadel, which is described as a massive construct similar in shape to a pentagram. It consists of a central ring with 7.2 kilometers in diameter from which five arms protrude, each 43.6 kilometers long. The station is able of closing on itself with the convergence of the five arms thus transforming itself into an impenetrable cylinder. “Normally the Citadel retains its open form and closes only during times of emergency. The central ring and five arms are home to the Presidium and Wards respectively. The spaceports are located on the central ring as well since this is the center of rotation—this facilitates easier access for ships attempting to dock with the station.”    (


Concentrating our attention towards the ground level we can observe the minute detail that went into constructing this unique world. Waterfalls cascading down the glossy surfaces of the buildings and splashing into a lower crystal clear pool, myriad aqueducts, staircases and tunnels come together to form a serene yet silently active environment.






10:40PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila

7.     Exoddus:







 The world of Exoddus:


Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus is an award winning video game developed by Oddworld Inhabitants and published by GT Interactive.


This puzzle solving game features a collection of levels that have a very atypical yet captivating, colorful design. Each layer of the game looks as if the player has descended into an industrial “hell” where multicolored, bright signs point in every possible direction and dimension. The game environment almost looks like a toy factory specialized in producing “dark, evil” metallic toys.


Even though at first glance everything appears to be utterly irrational and countless objects seem to be placed at random, as the player starts exploring the space all parts just clique together and form a coherent whole. Steel bridges, cadged elevators, automatic train tracks, rotating and moving platforms are placed in a rational sequence so that the main character has to find the unique way of getting out a particular spot in a level.


I particularly enjoyed this underground industrial, “scarp metal” world with its neon coloring and lights, with apparent intricate juxtapositions of structures (that once figured out allow the player to smoothly advance from one point to another) and with its witty, effective street signs and faded, futuristic looking background.








Deus Ex

10:02PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila


 6.     Deus Ex:



Screenshot from the game. The city looks like a living biological structure due to its intricate network of buildings and connecting platforms. 



Screenshot depicting one of the 3 main hubs portrayed in the game. In a world where gravitation seems to have ceased to exist, buildings spread out along the coast and rise distortedly towards the closed rooftop of the city. Glass and concrete dominate this city-capsule and nature is scarcely present mainly to serve as a decorative element surrounding the edges of some recreational areas.



The world of Deus Ex:


Trying to imagine the future cities of Montreal, Detroit and Hengsha, the gameplay designers created a world where these 3 hubs have very different, yet coherent architectural styles.


For Montreal they created very specific architecture called triplexes, a sort of building with exterior twirling staircases made of an old metal that looked futuristic and retro at the same time, reflecting both the specificity of Montreal and   the technological advances that would happen until 2027.


Hengsha is a densely populated city off the coast of Shanghai in China. According to the designers of the game, before 2027, a second street level was built above ground level on top of a gargantueque structure called Pangu. The bottom layer is the Mecca of cybernetics with a lot of the headquarters of the manufacturing plants, while the top layer has a more different architectural style with newer universities and centers of operations.


As far as Detroit is concerned, in 2027 the city is depicted as being economically segregated and divided into two types of areas: the high rise contemporary buildings of Sarif Industries and Co. and the dilapidated tenements and abandoned buildings primarily under the control of street gangs.







While playing I came across this peculiar building in Montreal composed of two blocks: a more regular one with rounded corners and continuous ribbon windows that run around the width of the structure and a more irregular block stretching outwards into the streets composed of layered translucent cantilevering slabs. The blue lights behind the glass structure create a futuristic effect and make the building shine amongst the greyer, more austere edifices surrounding it.






Half Life 2

09:57PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila


5.     Half Life 2:







 The world of Half Life 2:


 This frightening vision of the future has stunning visuals and expresses artistic vision through its incredible cityscapes and fear-provoking robots. Light plays a significant role in the beauty of Half Life 2, not only because of its quality, but because of the way that it tracks the passage of time. Each passing level brings the sun down a bit more until you're encased in an eerie canopy of unease at just the right moment in the game. The brighter points allow for the exquisite detail of the textures found everywhere in the game to become more apparent while the colors of the city and contrasting nature of the soldiers and citadel keep them strikingly outside of the norm and easily identifiable as enemy.


From the ingenious train station (featuring multiple levels hovering above what appears to be an endless abyss) that transports the player into City 17, to the futuristic metallic buildings that rise like a technological cocoon amongst more traditional buildings and skyscrapers, Half Life 2 offers an ample palette of unique architecture and eye-catching sites.



Train station



Crysis 2

09:52PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila


 4.     Crysis 2:






 The world of Crysis 2:



“Set in a 2024 that seems more like the day after tomorrow, Crysis 2 depicts New York City under assault from all directions. A bizarre virus is devouring entire boroughs; the city is under uneasy martial law, brought about by a strained partnership between the military and private security conglomerate Crynet.” (


The New York skyscrapers dominate the city, rising majestically along the abandoned streets and creating the perfect environment for this combat game. The shattering glass of these soaring buildings has a much more dramatic effect due to not only the immense heights but also the excellent graphics that bring a real cinematic feeling.


Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes in this game is the collapse of the Statue of Liberty, a moment that marks the start of the war.  The very straightforward, not so imaginative buildings rising in a series of austere blocks flank on each side this moving scene, becoming silent witnesses.








Mirror's Edge

09:43PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila

3.     Mirror’s Edge:







The world of Mirror’s Edge:


With its clean, reflective, radiant buildings, the city of Mirror’s Edge rises majestically to create the perfect gaming environment. A blend between a modern American city (with its grid-like arrangement) , and Tokyo or Osaka (with a myriad of mid-rise structures interrupted at times by skyscrapers), Mirror’s Edge city impresses through its thorough organization, crispness, spotless glass that basically conjures up the whole world and vibrant blue, white and orange colors that augment even more the sensation of freshness.


Towers dominate this pristine city that has been very carefully divided into a geometric network pierced by a multitude of pathways, staircases and other spaces in the office district. Its overall glass style walls and curvilinear furniture pay homage to Swedish modern architecture, as the game itself comes from Sweden.   


Green rooms become a motif in this game, where plants, light and furniture come together to create a very soothing, refreshing space. The green oasis has therefore been brought inside the steel and glass walls of this city that otherwise has a complete artificial outer shell. Overall the game creates a beaming, imposing city, where the life is nested deep within, while the outer shield exudes rationality, simplicity and sleekness.






Katamari Damacy

08:51PM Dec 14, 2011 in category General by Andreea Bancila

  2. Katamari Damacy:






 The world of Katamari Damacy:


Katamari Damacy’s world is a fairly accurate depiction of modern day Japan. Its bright colors, simple, striking shapes and boundless imagination ignite an ebullient joy in the player. This is pop art at its finest; the motifs of Warhol and the primary palette of Pollock gone Eastern. Here we can rediscover the unfettered creative force of childhood, when magic was plentiful and the impossible was just a matter of time and patience.”

 (10 Video Games That Should Be Considered Modern Art |



The vibrantly colored world of Katamari Damacy is just the way video game bloggers around the world described it: mesmerizing and incredibly imaginative. The player gets to form his own collection of sleek, shining, high-tech buildings and skyscrapers, bridges and monuments by rolling them up into a colossal ball of everything that defines modern architecture.

The game’s aesthetics have been compared with the explosive style of Takashi Murakami or with the metallic, very geometric sculptures of Michel de Broin. The game seamlessly combines the loud colors with a very organized city soon to become a chaotic sphere, where elegant glass structures, steel bridges, Ferris wheels, ships and stadiums get tangled together in an extremely compact form.




 Takashi Murakami- Paris 2009     

 Screenshot from Katamari Damacy



Michel de Broin- sculptures