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The Benefits of Gaming to Planning Education

"Popular games that invite players to take on the role of developer or city planner are a familiar part of the cultural landscape," according to this article.
October 26, 2019, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Emma Zehner shares insight into a game developed by Carlos Morales-Schechinger and Martin Smolka to teach the principles of land markets. The name of the game: GIROS, which in Spanish means both "transaction" and "turning around," according to Zehner.

"GIROS has been played well over 150 times and inspired spinoffs in most of Latin America, and in the Netherlands, Taiwan, Ghana, Kenya, the Philippines, and other countries. Participants have ranged from urban planning students to high-level public officials."

"Depending on the decisions players make, the game can take many forms. But at least two takeaways, evident since the game’s origins, always emerge. The first is that land value is not intrinsic, but is instead shaped by factors including transportation costs, land use regulations, taxation, and other externalities. The second takeaway, which the Lincoln Institute is fully embracing as part of its current instructional design work, is that games are a seriously important part of land policy education."

Zehner is writing for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, so the article is, to a degree, promotional of the agenda and programs of that organization, but the lessons of this examination should be apparent to a broad planning-interested audience. We've all played Monopoly, after all.

Monopoly was created in 1903 by Henry George aficionado Elizabeth Magie, then bought by the Parker Brothers in the 1930s and transformed into the capitalist game known around the world today. More modern digital games like SimCity, in which players build and manage urban areas, and Minecraft, which places players in an undeveloped landscape with the tools they need to build cities and other structures, have kept the tradition going.  

There are more examples of planning-related games of varying levels of popularity to be listed, but the idea of games and play hasn't yet found traction in planning pedagogy commensurate with its potential. Making more use of games could fill significant gaps in the planning curricula all over the world, including in the United States.

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Published on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 in Land Lines
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