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Master of Advanced Studies in Architecture, Specialization in Computer Aided Architectural Design | 065-0005/6
Supervision: Prof. Dr. Ludger Hovestadt, Philipp Schaerer
Chair of CAAD, ETH Zurich

Lead: Steffen P Walz, Philipp Schaerer
Guest: Christoph Wartmann

Introducing: Games & Architecture

"With games, learning is the drug. Boredom is the opposite." (Raph Koster, Game Designer)

In recent years, computer based games have increasingly entered the public consciousness, and a variety of scholarly and popular publications have offered information on the history, design and aesthetics of computer games. But one central aspect is never taken into account: the spaces (and space-times) of the games themselves. This lacuna is all the more remarkable when we consider that virtually all computer games take place in spaces. Players enter simulated spatial realities as well as fantastical spaces, photo-realistic representations of space as well as abstract ones. Today already, both architectural firms and universities exploit game techniques as well as game technologies in the framework of their designs, or intervene in architecture as well as in the urban realm with the assistance of games.

There are many aspects that suggest how productive it might be for architects to try to come to terms with computer games. We will try and find practical answers as a result of this module.

Module Scope

Throughout this module, we will be approaching the relationship of games and architecture, practically as well as theoretically, from three angles:

  • A Brief Architectural History of Games: From Flatland to 3D Levels
    • Within which spaces are computer games played?
    • What kinds of enthralling architectures surface in computer games?
    • What types of level editing software exist today?
  • Pervasive Games: Computerizing Dwellings, Cities, and Landscapes for Play Experiences
    • What new types of spaces, of buildings, and of cities might emerge when games are superimposed on preexisting spatial structures, thereby embedding a novel (urban) function?
  • Serious Fun: Utilizing Computer Games for Architectural and Urban Planning
    • What are example of serious games (e.g. in the fields of health, business management, architecture)?
    • How can game technologies and processes be useful resources for representing or even solving design problems (e.g. level editor walkthoughs, boardgame prototypes, etc.)
    • How can CAAD benefit from game design - what are game design (prototyping) methods?
    • How do we use, and take advantage of level editor software?

Learning Targets

  • Brief introduction to history of computer game space-time
  • Fundamental game design principles and pen & paper prototyping
  • Fundamental level design principles incl. 3D Game Studio workshop
  • Application of design principles with regard to assignment

Assignment: Serious Games for CAAD

How can games, or game design, assist CAAD? After the introductory classes, and until the final presentation on March 31st, you have to analyse, and solve a self-defined, yet concrete architectural / spatial conflict with either the help of a software based prototype (e.g. 3D game studio level), or a pen & paper prototype / model (materials at your own choice). These prototypes need to be both Twiki-documented (flowcharts, text, images), and playtested extensively. We ask you to bear in mind the following aspects:

  • Wherein lies the architectural conflict that has been transferred into a game?
  • What are the game rules, and procedures you apply? How do they operate?
  • What is your core mechanic? What are sub mechanics?
  • What types of player (inter)actions do you foresee, and when?
  • Are there game turns? How do they work?
  • How many players can play?
  • How long does it take until your game resolves?
  • What types of rewards does your game offer, how does it evoke 'fun'?
  • What title does your game have?
  • What is your game's audience?
  • Which game platform do you use, what kind of restrictions / options do you face?
  • What type of corrections would your next iteration need to contain? What are you game prototype's current problems?
  • How does someone who cannot play your protoype understand it only through your documentation?


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Revision r1.9 - 12 Aug 2005 - 15:49 - PhilippSchaerer
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