Architecture and Planning ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-3-2017


Architecture often looks to the value of digital spaces for simulation and computation. This thesis argues that the architectural value of games comes not from their role as mimetic digital spaces, but instead from their ability to teach playful worldbuilding. Working with Ian Bogost's methodology of unit analysis, I unpack a number of examples of worldbuilding throughout architectural history. I begin specifically with the construction toy, then move on to explore playful architectural theories in general. Next, drawing from the fields of game design, literature, and philosophy, I unpack the value of worldbuilding itself as a method for generating meaningful spaces. I look broadly at the practices of spacemaking that ludic behaviors encourage. Finally, I look ahead to two of today's innovative architecture firms, Atelier Bow-Wow and Elemental, who are already leveraging playful worldbuilding in their design praxis. Ultimately, play and games are important to architecture not merely as complex simulation systems, but instead for fostering holistic, rich, and deeply personal environmental narratives.



Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Architecture and Planning

First Committee Member (Chair)

Professor Nora Wendl

Second Committee Member

Professor Alex Webb

Third Committee Member

Professor Brian Goldstein

Fourth Committee Member

Professor Tim Castillo


play, construction toys, software, videogames

Included in

Architecture Commons