Home Scottish university recreates cathedral, joining a long tradition of historical landmarks in video games

Scottish university recreates cathedral, joining a long tradition of historical landmarks in video games


  • The University of Glasgow developed an interactive exploration of St. Giles Cathedral for Project HeritAIge.
  • The game offers web and kiosk access, highlighting the cathedral's history and cultural significance.
  • This project follows a tradition of video games preserving historical landmarks, like Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed.

Scotland’s landmark St. Giles Cathedral of Edinburgh, completed almost 900 years ago, is the subject of a free interactive work developed by the University of Glasgow and its Games and Gaming Lab.

Playable in web browsers, as well as in kiosks at the cathedral itself (which receives more than 1.4 million visitors annually) the game isn’t necessarily a “game” or an adventure but an exploration of the historic structure and its cultural impact. The University of Glasgow’s Games Lab teamed up with the development studio Education Evolved to produce to the work for Project HeritAIge.

St. Giles’ Cathedral was consecrated in 1243 and is a significant institution in both Scottish history and the history of the Church of Scotland, the later-reformed Protestant church that gave rise to Presbyterianism there as well as in the United States.

The cathedral underwent alterations and a restoration in the middle-to-late 19th century with the ambition of making it a “Westminster Abbey for Scotland,” in the words of the Scottish statesman William Chambers. This video game traces the church’s architectural origins and inspiration.

Though a game dedicated to a single church, however old, might seem esoteric, there is actually a history more than a decade old of presenting such buildings in video games, mainly through the Assassin’s Creed series developed by Ubisoft. When that series turned to the European Renaissance with 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II, landmarks like Brunelleschi’s Florence Cathedral were recreated in the game.

Video games love historical settings

2014’s Assassin’s Creed Unity, set during the French Revolution, went one further with a scale reproduction of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. When that landmark burned in 2019, Ubisoft — a French publisher — pledged €500,000 to help with its restoration. Just saying, there’s a history here.

Ubisoft and its Assassin’s Creed franchise have also set a path for the educational use of historical fiction in video games with “discovery modes” for both 2017’s Assassin’s Creed Origins and 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, set in ancient Egypt and Greece, respectively. Both modes were edited to remove objectionable content and designed so that educators could use them in schools to tour ancient Alexandria and the Greek islands of antiquity.

All of this is to say, the Glasgow Games Lab’s efforts belong to a strong tradition of historical preservation. So, good on them.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Owen Good
Gaming Editor (US)

Owen Good is a 15-year veteran of video games writing, also covering pop culture and entertainment subjects for the likes of Kotaku and Polygon. He is a Gaming Editor for ReadWrite working from his home in North Carolina, the United States, joining this publication in April, 2024. Good is a 1995 graduate of North Carolina State University and a 2000 graduate of The Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University, in New York. A second-generation newspaperman, Good's career before covering video games included daily newspaper stints in North Carolina; in upstate New York; in Washington, D.C., with the Associated Press; and…

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