Map Appreciation

While playing Destiny 2 off and on last week, it occurred to me just how much I appreciate a well-designed game map. In general, I admire a variety of map styles but ones that have clean (uncluttered) design, make use of muted colors, and indicate levels of difficulty in subtle ways interest me the most.

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I find Destiny 2’s maps aesthetically pleasing because of the minimalist design, the charcoal hues, and due to the fact that they aren’t littered with icons, a common malady of maps in many games.

But other than pleasing design, do maps really matter?

I think they do in some very significant ways. A game’s map is part of its visual identity, and, in turn, plays a part in how the player gets to know the game (shaping one’s perception of the game). Maps limit where players can go while indicating paths to travel and points of interest. The best maps, in my opinion, don’t shout out all points of interest by way of icons but instead subtly suggest areas worthy of exploration like the broken outline of what could be a structure or a crack amidst mountainous terrain. Engaging maps have something to offer beyond the obvious waypoint.

Maps divided into sections, especially when those sections are “locked” or shrouded in mist, encourage players to explore and constantly seek new locales, to push into the unknown. Some games reveal their maps in near entirety from the very beginning. Either way, a map provides a visual framework of the game’s spaces and limitations.

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While I haven’t done much in the way of seeking out scholarship regarding video game map design, I wonder how much game genre shapes map conventions. I might need to investigate that further for a future post.

To wrap this post up, I would like to share a few of my favorite maps and some others I find intriguing. It’s a short post this week because of school and life and blah. But I hope you enjoy the gallery, and, if you feel like dropping a comment, maybe share some of your favorite video game maps!

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15 thoughts on “Map Appreciation

    1. When a game is really good, solid map design just adds to the overall experience.

      Are you referring to the original Tomb Raider games or the newer titles? I remember liking the map in Tomb Raider (2013) at the time.

      Thanks for the comment!

      1. Yeah, it definitely makes it easier to play if it’s done well. Uh I think the two newest ones both had similar maps so both are good 😊

  1. I also love a good map! One of my favorites is the Metroid Prime series – being able to get “in” the map, and zoom into it, rotate it around, and the way it seamlessly shrinks back into a corner of your visor. It’s great!

  2. It’s not the biggest within a video game, but I love the Mêlée Island map from The Secret of Monkey Island. Every time I see it I’m reminded of that sense of wonder I had when I first saw it as a nine-year old. 🙂

  3. Nice. I was just thinking the other day about symbols in games because medium-specific symbols came up in my research methods class. While I was reading your post, I was thinking about how fun it would be to do a study on common symbols between maps in different games.

    1. That would make for a fun (I think!) and interesting analysis. You should do it. 🙂

      I’d like to write more about maps when I have the time. Haha.

  4. I’ve never played Destiny, but I can agree with everything you’ve said. I whole-heartedly love the map in Breath of the Wild. It blows me away.

      1. I liked Fallout 4, I only just finished it. To get the settlement stuff to fit better they had to change the topography so it was stretched and locations moved. All the other game maps perfectly align to the real location, with slight town movement.

        Like I said, I got REALLY nerdy with maps…

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