Big Empty Rooms

While playing Ico and Shadow of The Colossus again recently, in HD, I was reminded of a favourite element of gaming of mine that seems to have all but disappeared – big empty rooms. Some of my favourite games feature them. I’m not talking here about expansive areas in games that are chock full of levers and treasure and platforms and enemies. I mean what I say – big empty rooms with nothing in them. They were a feature of games about ten years ago. It was maybe just a fad of being able to render large rooms with high quality graphics and a decent draw distance that they cropped up as cavernous but ultimately pointless locations that you passed through, but I loved them.

Lara Croft would often be dwarfed by huge arena-like locations that didn’t have very much to do with the gameplay, the perfect example being the Coliseum in the original game. Granted there were a few endangered species to off and a small wall to climb in one corner but basically it was a big empty room. Likewise Prince of Persia: Sands of Time saw the prince skirting the edges of gigantic palace halls that once you actually got to wander around in them were completely void of anything other than ancient Persian air. Why do I love these barren chambers so much? Well, it’s to do with imagination and frivolity.

Games now tend to be quite tight with space. Everything and every place has a purpose, a use within the game mechanic. Even if a room is just there for flavour, such as the shops dotted around Shanghai in Deus Ex Human Revolution, they’re still treasure troves of items, weaponry and experience points you can use to level up your character. Every place has a tangible reward, anchored within the gameplay and covers a reasonable area that you can navigate quickly. I’m not complaining, I think it’s a good thing and an efficient use of the resources available but then so are digital home phones. I still have a soft spot for dial phones with a big receiver handset though. Likewise I kinda miss the big empty rooms. They may not have had a purpose within the gameplay but they had a purpose within my mind and they had a vast exuberance that real life doesn’t often provide; ultimately that is what games are all about.






One response to “Big Empty Rooms”

  1. Duncan avatar

    I blame the rise of linear gameplay. Plus, the need for every mainstream game to look like it’s made of pixelated gold just for most casual gamers to give it a second glance.

    Rendering a massive empty room isn’t near the top of most developers to-do lists. 🙁

Leave a Reply