This article is available also in spanish here

Cities and videogames: an unexpectedly constructive relationship

My list

Author | M. Martínez Euklidiadas

For decades, urban planning videogames have been a reflection of the way towns are perceived. Strategic planning, resource management or metrics to evaluate the various initiatives have gradually changed over time, for both physical cities and virtual cities, theprecursors of the digital twins. How have they done this?

The urban planning 'game'

cities and videogames 1

City simulation games, which include SimCity (1989) which was a pioneer, have been testing the nerves of players for decades, given the difficulty of balancing complex systems. Although in the initial versions of these simulators the metrics were particularly simple, often based on a single measurement: dollars.

Not so long ago real cities were using similar simplified systems. The GDP, average salaries or the cost of living are still key factors of cities although, much to the delight of their residents and to the dismay of administrators, the construction of cities has gradually become more complex, to the point of becoming a dense network of interactions.

Mobility, energy, waste: where can I put all of this?

cities and videogames 3

Even the first urban planning games did already include mobility parameters, although only those that predominated in the United States: the car. Most simulators still focus on roads and highways. However, other citizen concerns gradually began to emerge, which were eventually transferred to videogames.

People from all over the world demanded mobility, energy and local work, as well as efficient waste management (preferably far away from residential areas). Mayors had to use technology to manage cities and the management systems began to get confused with videogame simulators which, to a certain extent, already exceeded them.

Games that learn from managers and vice versa

Citizen demands for services (health, education, cleaning, etc.) is a constant in town planning, and, therefore, videogames soon emerged in which citizens showed their own degree of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with regard to management. Politics have been established in simulation games for some time.

For years we have seen how town planning games have been adding dimensions and indicators that can now be seen in reports such as IESE Cities in Motion (environment, governance, economy, social cohesion, human capital, international outreach, technology, etc.), and city council management systems were digitalized with examples of games.

Videogames for complexity

cities and videogames 2

Today, videogames such as City Skylines, Utopia, Caesar or Tropico are just as good as the urban management panels of public representatives. The level of complexity of these environments is such that they rival the digital twins of real cities and the difficulty level has increased significantly.

As with city councils, players have to tackle an endless and unrelenting number of increasingly challenging tasks. The eco-systemic relationships of cities have increased in complexity and densification, and it is impossible to alter a variable (for example, improve transport) without affecting many others, not always in a positive manner.

However, smart cities can learn, thanks to videogames, to implement digital models such as digital twins. These can be used as experiments before taking the leap to real cities, enabling a plan that has been tested, to a certain extent, on a hyper-realistic model, to be applied to the city.

An interesting way of looking at the relationship between urban planning videogames and actual urban planning is as follows: players that spend hours trying to maximize their digital citizens' happiness have more data available than most urban managers just a few decades ago.

Images | Man Chung, Uwe Hensel, Cities: Skylines

Related content

Recommended profiles for you

Remember to activate your profile to network!
Activate profile
ZZ
Zsivola Gabriella Zsivola
Tungsram Operation Kft
Head of Smart Solutions
Jan Bradley Jan
Jan Bradley Jan
City of Calgary
Director
JY
Jihee Yoo
KINY&Partners
Junior Consultant/ KINY&Partners
SB
Salvador Bilurbina
Fira de Barcelona
Press director
AA
Albert Alonso Miranda
TicTAP
Sales & Marketing Director
AP
Anand Deo Prasad
Kamlesh Infotech
Properitor
David  Crais
David Crais
CMG/Carealytics
Founder CEO
EM
Eloy Mesta
Telefonica
Jefe de Ingenieria
TN
Tooru Nonaka
日本電気株式会社
NEC Corporation
François Narbonneau
François Narbonneau
Multitel
...
Ernest Hughes
Ernest Hughes
HughesGlobal LLC
Didier Helal
Didier Helal
Orbiwise
Strategic Accounts Senior Director
Aleksandar Stojkovic
Aleksandar Stojkovic
Microsoft
Digital Architect/Advisor
rR
ricardoriquito@cimvdl.pt Riquito
CIM
Head of Information and Innovation
Niclas Holmqvist
Niclas Holmqvist
Cloudberry
Senior Consultant
Hiroki Oi
Hiroki Oi
Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO)
Chief, JETRO Kyoto
Cristina Siscanu
Cristina Siscanu
H.appyCities
Communication Manager
ai
abdul isiaq
RaRaRe
Product manager
Ricardo De Val
Ricardo De Val
Governo do Estado de Goiás
Gestor de Tecnologia da Informação do estado de Goiás
MW
Moritz Wagner
Microsoft Deutschland GmbH
Account Technology Strategist

Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$