Aurélien Catros wins the Ray Lifchez Berkeley Prize of IASTE with his paper on reconstructive game models

Aurélien Catros, a doctoral student at UdeM, and Maxime Leblanc, a doctoral student at McGill, won the prize for the best article written by students or junior researchers. This article focuses on video games and seeks to determine whether they faithfully reproduce cities as they were historically.

The article “When Boston Isn’t Boston: Useful Lies of Reconstructive Game Models” won the Ray Lifchez Berkeley Prize of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE) for the best article written by students or junior researchers. The authors, Aurélien Catros and Maxime Leblanc, are respectively an individualized doctoral candidate in Architecture at the Université de Montréal under the direction of Jean-Pierre Chupin and Bechara Helal, and a doctoral student at McGill University under the direction of Theodora Vardouli.

First organized in 1988 in Berkeley, USA, the 2021 “Virtual Tradition” edition of this biennial international conference was hosted by Nottingham Trent University, UK, and held online from August 31 to September 3. This year it brought together over 120 scholars and practitioners from many fields of study (architecture, architectural history, art history, anthropology, archaeology, conservation, geography, history, planning, sociology, etc.) around the 3 themes: Theorizing the Virtual and the Traditional in the Built Environment; The Socio-Spatial Traditions of Everyday Life in Changing Landscapes; and Tradition, Space, and Professional Practice in the Built Environment at Times of Transition.

The winning paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, uses qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) to infer the origin of verisimilitude of models used in video games that simulate historic cities. Drawing on Kevin Lynch’s concept of imageability, he specifically examines the similarities and differences between a 1775 military map of Boston and the model of the same city presented in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed III game. By comparing the monuments, roads, nodes, boundaries, and neighborhoods of the game model to the information recorded on the historical map, he demonstrates that a sense of verisimilitude is achieved not by total accuracy, but by specific combinations of sufficiently precise historical elements.

The article is available in open access on the Canada Research Chair in Architecture, Competitions and Mediations of Excellence website.