Pixel Pasts: A Resource for Exploring Cultural Heritage in Videogame Worlds

Pixel Pasts Homepage ScreenshotMy Pixel Pasts project has been in development for over a year now but I am very pleased to announce that I have made the website live!

The project is an online database which acts as a catalogue of real-world art, architecture, places and people recreated in videogame environments. The aim of the catalogue is to be a starting search point for those wanting to begin their research in historical visualisation in games. The catalogue is ever-growing, and one day will include images. If you want to suggest any database entries please let me know via the Pixel Pasts website!

Visitors will be able to search via game title, developer, publisher, historical asset name and type (architecture, art, person, place etc), period, style and location. In addition to the general search bar I am currently working on a more advanced search tool for the “Discover” page.

There will also be an articles feature if anyone interested in videogames and historical visualisation would like to contribute?

There is still a long way to go and lots of coding tweaks to make, however the basic functions of the database are in place- please bear with me whilst I make the site more user friendly!

The idea for the project came about back in early 2014 when I was writing my MSc dissertation on the pedagogic potential of using videogame technologies for exploring architectural history. One thing which would have made my research a lot easier would have been a catalogue of historical buildings recreated in videogames, both accurately or implied by the Developers. So then I started developing Pixel Pasts as a response to both my own research need and a love for historical visualisation in videogames.

My thanks in particular go out to Simon Stamp of Block for his coding expertise and assistance with the database. Look out for updates and I hope that the site will be of use to those interested in historical visualisation.

www.pixelpasts.com   —  Twitter: @PixelPasts


Something for you to fill in…

If you have a spare 10 minutes (maybe to procrastinate?) please fill out my survey for my dissertation. It’s about gaming technologies for architectural heritage education, particularly in the experience of “place”. It will help me in designing my York St Mary’s Abbey game.

I would be grateful if you could fill it out, no gaming or heritage experience necessary, thanks in advance!


Divinity’s Reach- Epitome of Power

As part of my “Architecture in Gaming” series here is another one of my favourite in-game architectural locations: Divinity’s Reach, from the Guild Wars series.

“Divinity’s Reach is the greatest city in the human nation of Kryta. It is laid out like a giant wheel. Its upper city contains Queen Jennah’s royal palace and the Chamber of Ministers. Six high roads, each dedicated to a god, divide the lower city into districts.” In-game description

In Guild Wars 2, the quality of the architectural rendering makes it stand out in particular from the rest of the locations in the game (my opinion as a castle and cathedral admirer).

Below is my Asura admiring the view.  This screenshot was taken quite early on in the game for my character as I went straight there after completing the Asuran starting area, but I think it is a fantastic example of how much the city impacts on the Kryta landscape.

divinitys reach

It made me think back to my undergraduate studies where I was studying the architecture of medieval castles comparing those of King Edward I with his “Iron Ring” of Welsh castles, to that of the academically controversial Bodiam Castle. Are castles built for defensive purposes or are they intended as romantic allusions?

From the exterior, Divinity’s Reach looks strongly fortified with its gargantuan stone outer walls which circle the city, numerous amount of towers and a colossal portcullis.  To an outsider, the fortress is impenetrable and ticks all the boxes for the ultimate military structure. It is an exemplification of human domination over the Krytan landscape.

It is the combination between military stronghold and a fantastical, fairytale-like city that makes Divinity’s Reach stand out as an iconic structure to me. When you enter the interior walls it becomes apparent that despite it’s military mask, the city itself is highly sophisticated displaying a vast range of vernacular medieval-esque buildings.


The city is divided into districts, as commanded by it’s architectural design. These represent the hierarchy of society, as does a medieval castle, for example the higher up the structure you head the people who inhabit those areas are of higher status, in this case the lower districts are for the everyday citizens and the highest towers are Queen Jennah’s palatial complex.

Before I played the game I previously posted here about how the concept art of Divinity’s Reach reminded me of Mont Saint-Michel. Now I have played the game and explored the city I still agree with that comparison, and I think overall what ArenaNet was trying to portray with this location was the element of strength and power combined with a sophisticated civilisation in a race (in the context of the game- the human race). When compared to the architecture of the  other in-game races (such as Charr, Asura etc) their architecture also represents the ideals of their race.

Lastly, this is very true to architecture from history and to other countries today as our buildings become our identities, representative of the times. It is interesting how we implement these sort of ideals to in-game cultures as well.

For more architecture in gaming click here!