How New York’s Central Park Created the Map for Open-World Video Games

Great immersive games create a universe in miniature — just like the world’s best urban parks

Adam Frank
OneZero
Published in
7 min readJan 29, 2020

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Illustration: Glenn Harvey

It was uncharted territory.

I’d just finished setting my mom up in her new assisted living facility on East 108th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Needing some air, I walked over to Central Park, a place where I’d spent thousands of hours in my younger years. A lot of those visits were decades ago when my dad lived on the Upper West Side, across the park. But now I was in Central Park’s northeastern end, a place for which I had no internal map. So I followed the path in at 107th Street. On my right was a beautiful lake where hundreds of folks sat on benches taking in the midday sun. To my left, I could see the neat lines of a grand, formal garden. Then the path took me over a rise and, almost before I could register the change, I found myself alone in the profound hush of deep woods, in the middle of the biggest city in the United States

Frederick Law Olmsted had done it to me again.

As had happened many times in my past, the great designer of Central Park had ushered me from one landscape to another, from one world to another, in just a few paces. But this time, even though I hadn’t been in…

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Adam Frank
OneZero

Astrophysicist: U of Rochester. Blog: 13.8 Orbiter. Sometimes NPR, NYTimes, Atlantic & others. Book: Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth.