Architects love to dream big. You can call it delusions of grandeur or singular vision until the judgment of history renders its verdict. But what if that could change?
Games like "X Rebirth" point the way to how architects can use game design to model and test real-world proposals. "X Rebirth" is already a stunning game: Its Blade Runner-meets-Battlestar Galactica aesthetic pervades a vast universe of space stations and planetoids that players can explore. Each player is a captain of her own ship and must fight, trade, and ally with other players in order to build her own powerful empire.
Similarly expansive games like "EVE Online" have hosted enormously complex political systems and economies. "EVE Online's" CCP Games even has an in-house economist on staff, and one of the game's recent massive battles generated approximately $30,000 in losses for its players.
However, what makes "X Rebirth" stand out is the ability for players to enter and experience their architectural world from outside their cockpit: ships' interiors, byzantine spaceports, and gritty installations. The "X Rebirth" world will be complete in a visually experienceable and sociopolitical way.
Projects such as this one bring to mind the many utopian schemes that have always been part of architecture, from Claude Nicolas Ledoux's late 18th-century plan for an ideal industrial town to Le Corbusier's Ville Radieuse and Frank Lloyd Wright's Broadacre City. All these plans met with varying degrees of success and implementation (mostly neither), but what if Corbu and Wright could have tested their ideas? What if they could have conducted a complex simulation that tested their architectural and social hypothesizes in a visceral, socially attuned way?
Broadacre City. Image: via studyblue.com
This is where games like "X Rebirth" come in. It offers the opportunity to take a dry run at building a world from the ground up and seeing how people will inhabit it. Designers can get economic feedback just as much as lessons about circulation, appearance, and program as they would after studying any built architectural project.
For example, what if an architect collaborated with a video game company to produce a simulation that was part eco-city, part farmville? No one really knows the details of how urban cultivation would work, but a game would give them the chance to perfect their proposal: how much space everyone needs, what motivates people to farm, how to best organize the movement of people and produce. Moreover, as the price of gave development decreases and the feasibility of virtual reality increases, the possibilities will only ever grow more attractive.
Architects: are you game?