When Architects Design Video Games

Not long ago, Deanna Van Buren was offered the position of lead architect on an unusual project—a video game called "The Witness."
August 25, 2016, 2pm PDT | Elana Eden
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In The Witness, released this year by game designer Jonathan Blow, players embark on independent exploration to discover the world of the game in fragments. Solving puzzles unlocks new spaces, each built with a unique aesthetic: desert ruins, an industrial sector, and a small village, to name a few.

The game's intriguing and widely praised design can be attributed to the unusual collaboration behind it: a team of visual artists, architects, and landscape architects.

Lead architect Deanna Van Buren spoke to Archinect about creating a conceptual "built" environment.

Building the portfolio of niche spaces required a "massive file of design references," she said, including film, tree houses, Hobbit houses, and medieval joinery.

But more challenging than the diversity of structures was learning to speak the language of video games, which has a whole different set of "building codes" than the physical world:

The biggest challenge was that we didn't understand game play and what game play means, and the psychology of game play and how important it was … We had to really step back a lot and think about: does this architecture, do these spaces support the gameplay objectives of this particular puzzle or this particular environment?

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Published on Tuesday, August 23, 2016 in Archinect
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