Gaming as a disembodied experience of the city: from Assassin's Creed to 'Smart Learner'


Τhis paper explores the role of gaming as a learning tool in the design disciplines, and suggests a methodology of work that bridges urban planning with virtually reconstructed environments. Building on the growing body of literature at the intersection of gaming, learning, and urban planning, the paper analyzes the simulation of the city of Rome in the video game Assassin's Creed and argues on the reliability of its morphology in relation to the real city. In this way, the paper confirms the didactic outcomes in the passage from the real city to the digital one, allowing for the creation of a theoretical and empirical reflection on the method to use it in an educational setting. As such, the paper builds on the idea of how gaming offers a disembodied experience of the city arguing about its didactic and social impact on a new generation of ‘smart learners’.


Disembodied experience, gaming, ICT in architecture & urban planning, smart learner

Full Text:




Accame, M., & Dell’Oro, E. (2004). I Mirabilia Urbis Romae. Roma, Italy: Tored.

Angelidou, M., & Psaltoglou, A. (2019). Social innovation, games and urban planning: An analysis of current approaches. International Journal of Electronic Governance, 11(1), 5–22.

Aroni, G. (2019). The Architecture of Assassin’s Creed II’s Florence: An Analysis with the History-Game Relations (HGR) Framework. Well Played, 8(1), 13-26.

Bailey, K. (2015, March 14). Filling in the Corners: Bringing Assassin’s Creed’s Historical Worlds. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from website:

Barsalou, L. W. (2008). Grounded Cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59(1), 617–645.

Barsalou, L. W., Simmons, W. K., Barbey, A. K., & Wilson, C. D. (2003). Grounding conceptual knowledge in modality-specific systems. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(2), 84–91.

Bevilacqua, M. (2012). L’immagine di Roma moderna da Bufalini a Nolli – Un modello europeo. In Piante di Roma dal Rinascimento ai catasti (pp. 63–95). Roma, Italy: Artemide.

Bevilacqua, M. (2018). L’immagine di Roma moderna da Bufalini a Nolli – Un modello europeo. Roma, Italy: Artemide.

Boes, K., Buhalis, D., & Inversini, A. (2016). Smart tourism destinations: Ecosystems for tourism destination competitiveness. International Journal of Tourism Cities, 2(2), 108–124.

Bowden, O. (2017). Assassin’s Creed. Peguin. Retrieved from /books/305782/assassin-s-creed/9781405932110

Buhalis, D., & Amaranggana, A. (2015). Smart Tourism Destinations Enhancing Tourism Experience Through Personalisation of Services. In I. Tussyadiah & A. Inversini (Eds.), Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2015 (pp. 377–389). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Cagiltay, N. E. (2007). Teaching software engineering by means of computer-game development: Challenges and opportunities. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(3), 405–415.

Casas, A. P. (2016). Los límites de la ficción: Narrativa y estética de Los Borja en el videojuego Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Revista Borja. Revista de l’Institut Internacional d’Estudis Borgians, (5), 1–10.

Chan, C. S. (1997). Virtual Reality in Architectural Design. In CAADRIA 1997 Workshop (pp. 1–10). Taipei, Taiwan: Hu’s Publisher Inc.

Chang, Y. C., Peng, H. Y., & Chao, H. C. (2010). Examining the effects of learning motivation and of course design in an instructional simulation game. Interactive Learning Environments, 18(4), 319–339.

Coffrey, R. (1997, September 17). Versailles 1685. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from Computer Gaming World. website:

Connolly, T. M., Stansfield, M., & Hainey, T. (2007). An application of games-based learning within software engineering. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(3), 416–428.

Conzen, M. R. G. (1960). Alnwick, Northumberland: A Study in Town-plan Analysis. London, England: George Philip & Son.

Dondlinger, M. J. (2007). Educational Video Game Design: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Applied Educational Technology, 4(1), 21–31.

Dove, G. (2011). On the need for Embodied and Dis-Embodied Cognition. Frontiers in Psychology, 1, 1–13.

Dow, D. N. (2013). Anachronism, Simulation, and Art History in Assassin’s Creed II. In Playing with the Past: Digital games and the simulation of history (pp. 215–232). London, England: Bloomsbury Academic.

Ebner, M., & Holzinger, A. (2007). Successful implementation of user-centered game based learning in higher education: An example from civil engineering. Computers & Education, 49(3), 873–890.

Esteban-Espinosa, G. (2020). Relaciones narrativas entre las partes interactivas y las cinemáticas en el videojuego mediante el análisis cualitativo de siete títulos de la saga Assassin’s Creed. Revista Mediterránea de Comunicación, 11(1), 107–116.

Fondo para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas de América Latina y El Caribe, FILAC. (2020). Unesco: La pandemia del covid-19 resalta la desigualdad en la educación. UNESCO. Retrieved from UNESCO website:

Foreman, J. (2004). Game-Based Learning: How to Delight and Instruct in The 21st Century. EDUCAUSE Review, 39(5). Retrieved from

Gauthier, P., & Gilliland, J. (2006). Mapping urban morphology: A classification scheme for interpreting contributions to the study of urban form. Urban Morphology, 10(1), 41–50.

Geropanta, V., & Cornelio Marì, E. M. (2014). Defining smart space: Scales of interaction between architecture and social practices. Smart City: città, tecnologia, comunicazione, 10, 165–181.

Hwang, G.-J., & Wu, P.-H. (2012). Advancements and trends in digital game-based learning research: A review of publications in selected journals from 2001 to 2010. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(1), E6–E10.

Juul, J. (2011). Half-Real. Boston, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Khan, M. S., Woo, M., Nam, K., & Chathoth, P. K. (2017). Smart City and Smart Tourism: A Case of Dubai. Sustainability, 9(12), 2279.

Kiili, K. (2007). Foundation for problem-based gaming. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(3), 394–404.

Kinney, D. (1990). Mirabilia urbis Romae. The Classics in the Middle Ages : Papers of the Twentieth Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1100–1200. New York, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies.

Komninos, N. (2002). Intelligent Cities: Innovation, Knowledge Systems and Digital Spaces. London, England: Routledge.

Kropf, K. (2014). Ambiguity in the definition of built form. Urban Morphlogy, 18(1), 41–57.

Labonté, R., & Laverack, G. (2008). Health Promotion in Action: From Local to Global Empowerment. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Levy, A. (1999). Urban morphology and the problem of the modern urban fabric: Some questions for research. Urban Morphlogy, 3(2), 79–85.

Liu, T.-Y., & Chu, Y.-L. (2010). Using ubiquitous games in an English listening and speaking course: Impact on learning outcomes and motivation. Computers & Education, 55(2), 630–643.

Lynch, K. (1960). The Image of the City. Boston, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Maffei, L., & Caniggia, G. (1981). Composizione architettonica e tipologia edilizia vol. 1 lettura dell’edilizia di base. Venezia, Italy: Marsilio.

Monkey Island Special Edition Collection,. (2011). Play Generation, 72, 59.

Morales, N., & Elisa, M. (2018). La arquitectura como elemento narrativo en Assassins Creed II. Quaderns de Cine., 13, 93–102.

Oliveira, V. (2016). Urban Morphology: An Introduction to the Study of the Physical Form of Cities. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Papastergiou, M. (2009). Digital Game-Based Learning in high school Computer Science education: Impact on educational effectiveness and student motivation. Computers & Education, 52(1), 1–12.

Plass, J., Homer, B., & Kinzer, C. (2016). Foundations of Game-Based Learning: Educational Psychologist: Educational Psychologist, 50(4), 258–283.

Ponce Lara, C. E. (2017). Gamificación en Ecuador: ¿los juegos pueden ser parte de procesos educativos y laborales? (Universidad de las Américas). Universidad de las Américas, Quito. Retrieved from

Rodríguez Alvarado, C., & Hernández Belmonte, U. (2018). Estudio de la experiencia de usuario en videojuegos serios con contexto artístico. JÓVENES EN LA CIENCIA, 4(1), 1911–1915.

Russell, D., & Laffey, J. M. (2015). Handbook of Research on Gaming Trends in P-12 Education. IGI Global. Retrieved from http://doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-9629-7

Seif El-Nasr, M., Al-Saati, M., Niedenthal, S., & Milam, D. (2008). Assassin’s Creed: A Multi-Cultural Read. Loading..., 2(3), 1–32.

Shaffer, D. W., Squire, K. R., Halverson, R., & Gee, J. P. (2005). Video Games and the Future of Learning: Phi Delta Kappan, 87(2), 105–111.

Shaw, A. (2015). The Tyranny of Realism: Historical accuracy and politics of representation in Assassin’s Creed III. Loading..., 9(14), 4–24.

Silva, D. F. da. (2020). Videogames e espacialidade: A abertura do jogo como potencial para o campo da arquitetura / Video games and spatiality: Opening the game as potential for the field of architecture. Brazilian Applied Science Review, 4(2), 510–528.

Squire, K. (2011). Video Games and Learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age. Technology, Education--Connections (the TEC Series). In Teachers College Press. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Stouhi, D. (2020, June 16). From Backdrop to Spotlight: The Significance of Architecture in Video Game Design. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from ArchDaily website:

Szrajber, R., Guzek, K., & Jach, S. (n.d.). Architectural heritage and its representation in video games. Retrieved from

Tüzün, H., Yılmaz-Soylu, M., Karakuş, T., İnal, Y., & Kızılkaya, G. (2009). The effects of computer games on primary school students’ achievement and motivation in geography learning. Computers & Education, 52(1), 68–77.

Van Eck, R., & Dempsey, J. (2002). The effect of competition and contextualized advisement on the transfer of mathematics skills a computer-based instructional simulation game. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 23–41.

van Nuenen, T. (2017). Touring the Animus: Assassin’s Creed and chronotopical movement. Loading..., 10(17), 22–39.

Vivancos, A. E., Ferrer, L. A., & López, A. J. G. (2017). Videojuegos, historia y patrimonio: Primeros resultados de una investigación educativa evaluativa en educación secundaria. Revista Interuniversitaria de Investigación en Tecnología Educativa, 2, 28–40.

Waal, M. de, Lange, M. de, & Bouw, M. (2017). The Hackable City: Citymaking in a Platform Society. Architectural Design, 87(1), 50–57.

Walker, D. F. (1990). Fundamentals of curriculum. San Diego, California: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Webster, A. (2014, October 31). Building a better Paris in Assassin’s Creed Unity. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from The Verge website:

Westin, J., & Hedlund, R. (2016). Polychronia – negotiating the popular representation of a common past in Assassin’s Creed. Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, 8(1), 3–20.

Xu, F., Weber, J., & Buhalis, D. (2013). Gamification in Tourism. In Z. Xiang & I. Tussyadiah (Eds.), Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2014 (pp. 525–537). Cham. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Zoido Naranjo, F., de la Vega, S., Morales, G., Mas, R., & Lois, R. C. (2000). Diccionario de geografía urbana, urbanismo y ordenación del territorio (1a. Ed.). Barcelo, Spain: Editorial Ariel. Retrieved from

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Riccardo Porreca, Vasiliki Geropanta, Karen Abril, Dario Giordanelli

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.



SCIRES-IT, e-ISSN 2239-4303

Journal founded by Virginia Valzano