When it comes to crafting the hottest video games, developers have to have unmatched creativity in order to dream up the fantasy worlds that millions of gamers around the world use to escape their daily lives. But while the wild imaginations of video game developers are certainly a force to be reckoned with, many of the settings in the most popular games aren’t complete fiction and are actually inspired by real places.
Aperture Laboratories in Livermore, California
A close resemblance to the technological domain of the witty and diabolical supercomputer GLaDOS in the “Portal” games can be found at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Polished and clean with specialized lab equipment, the National Ignition Facility is where technicians are trying to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion (attempting to create small suns by firing colossal lasers at hydrogen atoms.)
Arkham Asylum in Northeastern Massachusetts
It’s not so surprising that Danvers, Massachusetts — the place once known as Salem Village and infamous for the witch trials in 1962 — could be the inspiration for a video game setting. Gigantic and gothic, the Danvers State Hospital (or the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers) is believed to have been the inspiration for horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and the creation of the Arkham Sanitarium in the Batman series.
Constructed in 1874, the place was meant to house 600 involuntary commitments, but grew to house a population of 2,360 by 1939. With lack of staff and funding, there was very little control over the overcrowding patients. The institutionalized would go unobserved and uncared for, with plenty found dead in their rooms.
Many of the disturbing tropes of a madhouse — restraint with straight jackets, electroshock therapy, and the first ever subjections to pre-frontal lobotomy — inspired the dark setting for the Batman plots. Closing in 1992, the hospital has been demolished and transformed into an apartment complexes.
Silent Hill in Pennsylvania
The borough of Centralia had a population of 1,000 in 1981 before dwindling down to a mere seven inhabitants by 2013. An accidental subterranean fire set ablaze back in 1962, burned year after year. The fire, in an abandoned coal mine (up to 300-feet-wide, 75-feet deep and stretching over eight miles long) caused more and more locals to leave due to the dangers the situation presented. Smoke rising out of various openings in the earth around the condemned foundations is reminiscent of the fog-shrouded and monster-infested town horror-playing gamers know well.
Mario Kart Race Tracks in Upstate New York and Southwestern Utah
Farmvilles of the Empire State like Dryden or Gardiner have rolling green acres with cows grazing, barns and pasture fences. Bryce Canyon National Park of the Beehive State has jagged rock formations and deep crevices. The courses of choice that go by the names of Moo Moo Farm and Yoshi Valley in Mario Kart 64 take after these two famous landscapes. Trying to drive a tiny go-kart and throwing a turtle shell at somebody while visiting the real-life sites may be frowned upon though.
Jeremy J. Brooks graduated in 2013 with a BA in Graphic Design focusing on Illustration and a minor in Writing. While in college, he achieved a personal goal of seeing every movie on a version of IMDb’s Top 250 Highly Voted Movies plus beyond 700 more on some other lists to try teaching himself how to be a better storyteller as well as from other forms of popular culture and is the subject of a 2008 documentary “JJ’s Journey: A Journey About Autism”.