Lighthouses: A Gaming Obsession

Lighthouses… they’re everywhere.. right? I mean, we all see several each day in all sorts of situations. Usually they’re located in some region that we’re gradually working towards or carry with them some greater symbolic weight than the simple maritime navigation and warning tool that they were originally designed to be. What do you mean you rarely see lighthouses? They’re everywhere in games so I assume that they must be everywhere in real life cropping up in all sorts of situations. I just thought that I was the oddity as my typical day doesn’t feature any of these cylindrical obelisks but as games are modelled on real life then we must see them everywhere.

The point that I’m subtly bludgeoning over the head is that lighthouses sit in that in that category of things we see much more in games than in real life. They’re in good company with things like crates, exploding barrels, abandoned ammunition, and people wandering the streets looking for specific numbers of very specific items. Unfortunately I’m also a sucker for a game featuring a lighthouse; heck add a windmill in there and you’ve go yourself an instant sale.

… I’m half expecting a developer to catch on to this and just release a game titled “Yes, all you do is walk around a windmill and a lighthouse on a small island” I’d drop money on that like a shot. They could even rope me in with a sequel titled “It’s exactly the same as the first one only now it’s raining“. 

The great thing about lighthouses from a game design perspective is that they can be used for all sorts of purposes. They add a distinctive feature to any ingame coastal location providing an instantly memorable silhouette, they are architecturally interesting and break up the monotony of “normal” rectangular buildings, and of course their original use as a warning to ships can carry many subtextual implications in a narrative driven game. with all this in mind, and for no other reason than “why not” I present to you five of my favourite ingame lighthouses:

Life is Strange

Screenshot 2018-10-07 at 20.47.40
I mean, aside from the symbolism, why does Max assume that she’ll be safe there? 

…Some Spoilers Here…
The lighthouse overlooking Arcadia Bay in ‘Life is Strange’ acts as lynchpin location tying Max’s vision of the storm in the opening to the reality of the storm in the game’s final act. It serves as a physical locale strongly associated with Max and Chloe’s childhood as well as an ideal dramatic location for the game’s climax with its long winding approach and view of the town below.

Lighthouse Rating: Gale Force

Alan Wake

Screenshot 2018-10-07 at 20.43.52
Often conveniently located on outcrops of land, lighthouses provide useful ingame destinations

The opening of Alan Wake features a lighthouse in Alan’s tutorial dream sequence. I guess in some way we all envy Alan for his ability to have a tutorial dream sequence, being taught basic skills in a dream must save time in his waking hours. Alan must make his way toward the lighthouse picking up all sorts of useful basic actions within this nocturnal education with the lighthouse itself acting as an unsubtle indicator that light can be used to drive away the shadow monsters within the game.

Lighthouse Rating: Spooky

To the Moon

Screenshot 2018-10-07 at 20.50.26

… some spoilers here…
The only lighthouse in the list with a specifically human name, Anya, the lighthouse from ‘To the Moon’ is one of the overriding recurring locations in this moving tale of love and death. I’ve never brought myself to replay ‘To the Moon’ since that fateful evening when I first completed it sitting at my desk and tearing-up at what is a fine example of minimalist storytelling. The character River is drawn to the lighthouse because she believes that the stars are lighthouses in the sky, but in a broader context represent what Jonathan has forgotten about his past.

Lighthouse Rating: Emotional 

Bioshock & Bioshock Infinite

“There’s always a lighthouse. There’s always a man. There’s always a city.”

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Everything about these games is visually striking and the lighthouses are no exception. Acting as the gateway to the city of Rapture in Bioshack and Columbia in Infinite, these imposing structures provide both a memorable opening to both games and also a clear link between these two, seemingly far removed, cities.

Lighthouse Rating: Art Deco

Left4Dead

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We’re not winning any prizes for best time here… 

What do you mean you don’t remember the lighthouse level in Left4Dead? The lighthouse update to Valve’s first squad based zombie shooter hailed the addition of a survival mode to the thus far scenario focused experience. I also marked one of the only updates to the game before the release of Left4Dead2. On an evening of great anticipation several of my online gaming buddies and I waited patiently for this download to complete so that we could try the new mode and the new level. I recall distinctly the lighthouse now featuring on the menu screen and saying “Ooooooh… lighthouse,” yes, I do have a way with words.

In the context of the game the lighthouse makes little sense. Your team must prepare to survive as long as possible then activate the light and foghorn to start the round. Of course this ignores the fact that you are currently safe from zombies and activating the foghorn and huge rotating light probably isn’t the best tactic for staying on the human side of this perpetual videogame conflict. Maybe the idea was that Bill, Louis, Zoe, and Francis were trying to summon help from a passing ship and inadvertently attracted the attention of perpetually spawning hordes of zombies.

Lighthouse Rating: Zooooeeeyyyyy…. 

So there you go! A list of five of my favourite ingame lighthouses. Do you have any favourite ingame lighthouses? Do you regularly encounter a lighthouse in your daily life? Do you maybe know a lighthouse or have ever found some kind of secret passage or puzzle clue at a lighthouse? Let me know in the comments below. 

11 thoughts on “Lighthouses: A Gaming Obsession

      1. Yeah, it was a fun ending you could unlock in Silent Hill. Also, you didn’t have to complete the whole game again, just play through and witness a few UFO’s in certain areas, and then reach the lighthouse. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Good call! I should have thought about the post apocalyptic lighthouses of the Fallout universe. 💈… Yeah, I know that’s a barbershop pole, but I don’t think that there is a lighthouse emoticon sadly.

      Like

  1. Good stuff, I love a good lighthouse. My favourite lighthouse is in Grim Fandango – it’s not a major location or anything but a dramatic plot ploint does happen there, as befits such a setting! I also liked the Bioshock lighthouse., that’s a memorable opening to be sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Esther – you start out at a lighthouse, one of a few derelict, atmospheric buildings on the island.

    In Wind Waker (Zelda) there is a dormant lighthouse that you have to light yourself.

    In Diddy Kong Racing there is a lighthouse which turns out to be a space rocket in disguise, and the gateway to a fifth, hidden world!

    Liked by 1 person

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