The acceleration of urbanization
has many analysts questioning its long term environmental
impact and determining ways to best prepare
for it. Now, a succession of new games is helping people better understand urban development by simulating, with realistic depictions of the planning process, the difficult decisions they may face in the near future.
Game of Urban Renewal:
Artist Flavio Trevisan
created a board game, The Game of Urban Renewal
, that lets Toronto residents determine the fate of their city through the lens of its complicated political history. Each player assumes an identity, such as Mayor, Developer, or resident of a demolished development. Then, participants choose a card that provides directions on what types of institutions they can build on a 3D city map. If their urban experiment isn’t going as planned, they can choose to demolish and start again. Modeled after real life outcomes, the instructions explain, “The game never ends. Continue playing until all players have left the game in pursuit of other interests.”
The New SimCity:
First released in 1989, SimCity
is the legendary computer game that lets budding architects build their own imaginary metropolises. Its newest iteration
, set for release in February 2013
, poses much tougher social and political decisions that mirror current hot button issues, like the use of renewable energy, socialized medicine, preservation of natural resources, and pollution. Each choice has pros and cons. For example, instead of dirty, cheap coal plants, players can build alternative power sources—but those come with a much higher price tag and occupy more space. With 3D graphics and provocative examinations of class systems, SimCity has come a long way from its floppy disk inception.
Block By Block: Minecraft
is a popular game that lets users build structures out of textured cubes in a 3D world. Now, the game’s development studio, Mojang
, has partnered with UN Habitat
for a project called Block By Block
that uses Minecraft as an urban planning tool. Developed to assist the Sustainable Urban Development Network
, Block By Block gives local youth a voice and encourages them to "show planners and decision makers how they would like to see their cities in the future.” Players, through replicated real-world environments, can alter current plans and offer new ideas digitally, no architectural training necessary. The pilot project, for Nairobi, Kenya, is in the planning phase.