Architects Are Playing With the Future of Design in Video Games

Game worlds can be blueprints for the real world, liberating spaces where rules can be reinvented and the invisible made visible

Thomas McMullan
OneZero
Published in
6 min readDec 9, 2019

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Credit: Yu Qi, Ziyi Yang

EEarlier this year, a group of cowboys in the video game Red Dead Online, the massive multiplayer version of Red Dead Redemption 2, escaped the game. This wild bunch, called the Grannies, found a spot against a precise cliff on the edge of the game’s vast map where, with persistent effort, they could cross over into the unknown. Instead of a void, they discovered that the world kept going and going, and the farther they traveled, the stranger their surroundings became.

As they ventured away from the finely detailed American frontier of the game, textures for the stony earth broke down. The landscape became filled with unnatural, angular formations. Eventually, they reached a body of water, somehow both above and below the ground, running in caverns measureless to humans, where they all, in the end, drowned.

This breakdown in realism of the Red Dead Online world is “the heart of what games are,” says Gareth Damian Martin, a game developer and editor of the games and architecture publication Heterotopias. “If we just pretend that they are convincing, then we’re agreeing to a…

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Thomas McMullan
OneZero

Freelance writer | @BBCNews @guardian @frieze_magazine @SightSoundmag @wiredUK @TheTLS others | Also @GardensBritish | Rep’d by @harriet__moore | Novel coming