The island of The Witness by Thelka Inc. and Jonathan Blow
Consider the UN-Habitat’s ‘Block by Block’ programme. When creating public spaces in poor and developing communities, UN-Habitat wanted to gather the perspective and ideas of the people that would be using it the most. To do this, they gave Minecraft to members of the community, giving them real input into the design of their public spaces. Using Minecraft, they created the kind of spaces and structures that they would like to see in their community which the team then considered when designing the new public spaces. This flourishing programme has resulted in great projects all over the world which you can check out at their website.
Of course, it goes both ways: the expertise of an architect can also be invaluable in developing video games. Historically, games would have been designed as separate levels, or hub worlds, with loading times between each area. This meant each area could have significantly different designs without it feeling jarring. Now, games in which the whole world is open to you, with little to no load times in between, are becoming increasingly common. These worlds need to function as a cohesive whole: with enough variety for the player to experience different environments while maintaining a consistent style and a natural transition in environment. Architects and landscape artists can be invaluable in achieving this.
A good case study is “The Witness”. The Witness is a game where the player finds themselves on a deserted island, populated only by derelict buildings and gorgeous scenery. While exploring the island, the player has to solve abstract puzzles linked to the environment and architecture around them. It’s a quiet, pensive game, brought to life by the detail inserted into every area of the island.