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A Video Game That Explores the Physics of Architecture

Scramble up the side of a futuristic skyscraper.

(William Chyr)

Chicago-based video game designer William Chyr has designed a world governed by a consistent bizarro-physics, where a player can walk up walls and ceilings and gravity is partially governed by colors.

The game, Manifold Garden, “is a metaphor for the last 400 years of physics,” Chyr explains. “You start learning about gravity, and you expand into learning about the shape of the universe.” Within the 20-odd hours it takes to to finish the game, you go from Newton to Leonard Susskind.

(William Chyr)

The sphere of Manifold Garden is made of Escher-like staircases, cities of lattice windows, and mysterious repeating structures. (“As complex as it seems, it’s all just boxes,” Chyr says.) Backed by the independent game funder Indie Fund, the developer has now been able to hire another part-time programmer, but this is mostly a full-time, solitary labor of love that’s taken Chyr three years to complete.

(William Chyr)

As the game’s puzzles increase in complexity, Chyr says, its architecture becomes more complex, too, with “more real-world references.” He cites architects Tadao Ando and Frank Lloyd Wright as influences, as well as Japanese gardens. Toward  the conclusion of the game, once players have had a chance to explore the rules, the visuals can get more arresting (and dizzying). “By the end, I can indulge,” Chyr says.

This is innovative stuff, but Chyr says he hopes anyone who knows how to operate a joystick or keyboard can enjoy his game. Manifold Garden hits a PC or Playstation 4 near you sometime in 2016.

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