Nearly all video games are works of fiction. They cast us a super soldiers, valiant knights, and magic wielding sorcerers, traveling to mystical lands and to worlds amongst the stars. Yet many games are set in the real world, too, and as games have grown ever more complex, the digital representation of places you can actually visit has grown more true to life as well.
Over a year ago, my wife and I traveled to Washington D.C. for the first time. There was a point when we reached the famous mall–which houses many of the nation’s most reputable buildings and landmarks–that my wife got a little turned around. We were standing outside the Capitol building, and she whips out her map to see where the Lincoln Memorial was in relation to the grand edifice that congress convenes in. Suddenly, memories of my time playing Fallout 3 erupted in my mind. “It’s on the far opposite side, to the west,” I said. As we were walking across the vast rows of green, green grass, I started picking out places that I had visited in Bethesda’s 2008 action RPG. Sure, in game this place was a ruin, overrun with murderous raiders, zombified ghouls, and colossal supermutants, but it still felt like I had actually been there before.
Similarly, my spouse and I had went to New York City for our honeymoon, and a few years later I got to roam the metropolis as Spider-Man on the PlayStation 4. New York City has been featured in games countless times, and having the freedom to explore its many streets in an open world is certainly not a novel idea, but Marvel’s Spider-Man is among the most detailed, most sprawling, and most ambitious depictions of any city to date. I also came to appreciate it more because I had actually spent some time there, taking in these same sites in the real world. When Peter would exclaim that he needed to defuse a bomb in Hell’s Kitchen, I immediately knew that was to the southwest of Central Park; if there was a hostage situation near Columbia University, I began to web swing my way up north towards the Bronx.
The Assassin’s Creed games are also notable for their incredibly accurate recreations of historic sites, such as Jerusalem in 1191, 1500’s Rome, and, yes, an 18th century depiction of New York. The game designers have went to such lengths to make the settings as real as possible that when Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire in 2019, the digital version of the massive church in Assassin’s Creed Unity was consulted to aid in restoration efforts.
What are the best real world locations that you have visited in a game? Are there any games set in cities that you live in or have frequented? What places would you like to see brought to life in a game, but haven’t? Let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook page, and our official Discord!