Five architecture video games to play while self-isolating
1 April, 2020
As video game designers look to create better realised and more immersive experiences, many are looking to architecture to help. Such as Jonathan Blow, the creator of puzzle video game The Witness, who specifically hired architects to help detail the world they were creating.
This is backed up by my own experience. I know at least two architects who essentially started their careers in games, where they could build and be creative, sparking a love of design that led them to where they are today.
All of which is a roundabout excuse for me saying: Now’s the perfect time to have some fun and write it off as professional research.
Here are my top five architecture video games:
A list like this simply wouldn’t be complete without one of the most iconic architecture video games in existence. To state that this game had an impact would be an understatement – it almost single handedly launched an entire new genre and reminded us that video games didn’t need to have bosses or loud noises to be utterly enthralling. Will Wright, the creator of The Sims, was inspired when his home was burnt down in a firestorm. The Sims was originally going to be simply an architectural simulator, before evolving into what it is today.
While there have been many iterations of The Sims (each with better design features) I still recommend seeking out the original. The soundtrack just brings a serenity that the others haven’t since captured.
This is a controversial choice. For some, the fact that I have chosen Cities: Skylines over Sim City is sacrilege. However, SimCity 4 is nigh impossible to play on modern computers, and also Cities: Skylines has (dare I say it) improved upon the formula. One reviewer said that “Cities: Skylines is the game that SimCity always wanted to be.”
It is also a beautiful world to lose yourself in.
From an urban planning point of view, it reflects a lot of factors in the real world: traffic management, zoning, public transportation, air and water pollution, utilities, and much more. You can spend hours creating the city of your dreams… and yes, there’s even an add-on so you can cause natural disasters and destroy everything you’ve worked on.
A surprising time-sink, Prison Architect is part management, part construction. In this light-hearted game you build your very own prison. It’s your job to keep the prisoners in order, prevent contraband, balance the books, and ensure the safety of the staff. It’s your choice, you can focus on keeping the prisoners happy, or rule with an iron fist.
What may look simple quickly becomes increasingly complex. While not as design-focused as some of the others in this list, there is a lesson to be had about how infrastructure can impact the experience. You’ll have to think of smart ways to keep prisoners from coalescing, preventing dangerous crowds, and ensuring everyone has access to the facilities and utilities they need.
Borrowing heavily from the likes of Sim Tower, Project Highrise puts you in the role of an “architect” for a new skyscraper. Developer Matt Viglione appropriately describes it as “an architectural drawing come alive.”
You have a blank plot of land. It’s your decision on where to go from there. You can focus on office space, residential, retail or a mixture. Ultimately, you just need to make sure that the tower attracts buyers, and makes you money.
It would be impossible for me to not mention the runaway hit that is Minecraft. In many ways the digital version of Lego, it creates a sandbox environment where you can build almost anything you can think of.
As Autodesk pointed out, many architects have already embraced Minecraft as a learning tool.
You might also be interested in our recent article about whether gaming can save the high street
About the author: Ben Storey is Archiboo’s marketing director and based in Amsterdam.