The Application of Mazes

When looking into level design I thought that using mazes in the design might be useful in creating a certain emotional effect on the player. The feeling of hopelessness or loneliness – much as is discussed in the Bed Among the Lentils monologue by Alan Bennett. When looking at the practicality of creating a maze in a level, and the special and visual restrictions required in order for it to be categorised as a maze, I found this excellent blog post by Martin Nerurkar.

The difference between a labyrinth and a maze is written below by Nerurkar;

 A labyrinth has only one convoluted path and no crossroads. A maze has dead endss and at least one correct path.

They are not the same thing, and clearly from the description have very different uses and intentions. Looking at the history of Mazes, one has to cast back to a time prior to the Roman Empire;

Spatio-visual Layer

The presentation and shape of a Maze often emphasizes the similarity and uniformness. For example to make it more difficult to navigate the Maze, the walls all look the same and have similar spatial characteristics (same height and width). This makes different rooms and corridors hard to tell apart, further complicating the players process of forming a mental map of the place.

Such a structure is unlikely to be man-made in many semi-realistic scenarios. Because of this the Maze often takes on the mantle of caves or caverns. Through their unstructured rocky surfaces they are difficult to discern from one another both spatially and visually. This uniformness thus stems from their nature and not from a conscious architect. Additionally an indoor or underground presentation effectively rules out aerial reconnaissance or climbing over walls, something that might be possible in open air Mazes such as garden mazes (Nerurkar, 2012).

Hiding the design behind the maze via the natural constructs of the set environment is genius, and it would be interesting to research how this technique might best fit a level’s design. After all, most game levels form some sort of maze – with dead ends – whether it be literally or theoretically.

Located in the centre of the Cloister, the Labyrinth commemorates the Golden Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II and was opened in 2002. The Spiritual Journey: The Labyrinth forms a continuous path and represents the Christian idea of a spiritual journey (, 2013).

The above quote is from the Norwich Cathedral website, which talks very briefly on the reason for their Labyrinth. Below is some information on how mazes (and labyrinths) have been used in the contexts of churches. I find the idea of perambulating your way through a maze as a self-contemplatory process interesting, as it shows how the context of the maze can completely change its relevance and feel.

The church mazes were supposed to be used as substitute pilgrimages. Medieval people thought it was good for their souls if they travelled to holy places. The Holy Land was obviously the best, but that was very far, and often dangerous. So there were pilgrimages to other places as well, such as Rome, Santiago in Spain or Canterbury in England. There was a scale of value, so a number of visits to an easy place was worth the same as one to a harder place. It has been suggested that walking a local church maze a number of times also qualified. So travelling to the middle was a miniature version of travelling to Jerusalem.(Gwydir, 2013)

In some contexts, the idea of being within a maze is one of entrapment, and an urgency to escape. However in this context it is more of a journey of self discovery and penchant thought that is experienced. When linking this to my work on Bennetts plays, you could say that a maze could represent the journey of self-discovery of the characters in his monologues. They feature several layers of subtext within a person’s character, and this could be translated into a maze environment which changed and evolved as you found more of yourself, and learned more of the maze – in an attempt at enlightenment (and escape).


Arcade Museum (2013) Gotcha – Videogame by Atari. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 October 2013]. (2013) Norwich Cathedral Labyrinth . [ONLINE] Available at:–the-labyrinth.aspx. [Accessed 20 October 2013].

Gwydir (2013) Cretan or Classical Mazes. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 October 2013].
Gwydir (2013) Chartres and other church mazes. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 October 2013].
Gwydir (2013) Introduction to Mazes and Labyrinths [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 October 2013].

Nerurkar, M. (2012) Archetypical Spaces, Part 3: The Maze | Game Architecture. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 October 2013].

Simulation (2013) Introduction to Simulation and Modeling: Historical Perspective. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 22 October 2013].

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