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Cities: Skylines as an Urban Planning Tool

Computer simulations continue to play a novel and important role in urban planning, especially in finding new ways to engage the public and add some fun to the process of planning for the future of cities.
August 10, 2020, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Urban planners are using Cities: Skylines to test and showcase planning ideas, according to an article by parCitypatory written in collaboration with Dennis Gastelum. 

While noting that the game is indicative of many of the problems with urban planning in the United States, like car-centric infrastructure and development patterns and a tendency to prioritize investments in already wealthy neighborhoods, for example, the article touts the public engagement tools built into the game as a gateway to understanding the critical component of public engagement. 

However, there are some interesting elements of the game that allow you to have an interaction between the player and its simulated citizens. There is Chirper, a Twitter-like dialog bar that allows you to know how citizens are feeling about your recent actions, as well as a measurement of general happiness that helps you guide your decisions.

Still, according to the article, the simulated engagement process is no substitute for the real thing, and planners that want to expand the power of the game to inform planning processes will have to bring in real humans to interact with the models provided by the game's simulation. Numerous examples of planners using the game as an engagement tool follow, including the example shown in the video shared above. The following video shows an example of planners in Stockholm using the game as an engagement tool to plan the Norra Djurgardstaden area of the city, with goals for 12,000 homes and 35,000 workspaces. 

The article also notes that Cities: Skylines isn't the only game with the potential to supplement public engagement processes: "Similarly, other games such as Fortnite, Minecraft and UrbanFootprint are used in many cities around the world to develop urban planning projects. Even UN Habitat is using Minecraft to change neighbourhood design with the Block by Block project." Don't forget SimCity, too!

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Published on Friday, August 7, 2020 in parCitypatory
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