Videogame Atlas explores the beauty and complexity of digital worlds

Authors Luke Caspar Pearson and Sandra Youkhana delve into the intricate architecture of videogame environments in this new book from Thames & Hudson – which they believe could help democratise urban planning

In recent years, videogame worlds have transcended their original purpose as mere containers for player navigation and become tools for education. Since the release of its first Assassin’s Creed game, French developer Ubisoft has received messages from teachers around the world saying that they have used various instalments in the series to teach history lessons.

In 2019, it was even reported that Assassin’s Creed Unity, which is set in 18th century Paris, would be used to help rebuild Notre-Dame after the 2019 fire that destroyed much of the cathedral. This never ended up happening, but it served to show the power and potential of videogame architecture – fictional or otherwise.

With all of this beauty and craftsmanship on display, it seems a shame to leave it trapped within the confines of a game. Why not extract it and present it in another medium, so that non-gamers can also study and appreciate it? Well, that’s exactly what architectural designers and You + Pea founders Luke Caspar Pearson and Sandra Youkhana have done with Videogame Atlas, published by Thames & Hudson. 

Featured in the book are titles such as Assassin’s Creed Unity, Dark Souls, Minecraft, Final Fantasy VII, Death Stranding, Fortnite and more. Using over 400 illustrations at varying scales, from the macro to the micro, and providing expert commentary on the many environments presented, Caspar Pearson and Youkhana walk readers through the “staggering complexity” involved in contemporary videogame design. 

Drawing on their backgrounds in the field – as scholars of both architecture and ‘videogame urbanism’ – they engage with the work through the practices and thinking applied to real world built environments. As such, the knowledge and findings shared within are aimed at a broad demographic, from gamers to artists to architects – aligning with the authors’ goal of creating conversation around “how games can engage new participants in the design of cities”. 

Videogame Atlas is published by Thames & Hudson;