Thursday, March 7, 2013

Can SimCity Teach Us Anything About the Cities of the Future?

SimCity is an urban-planning/city-building video game and one of the best-selling computer games of all-time.  The newest reboot of the series, SimCity (2013), was released this week to much critical acclaim. Over at Slate, Adam Sneed asks if the game can teach us anything about the future of urban planning:

Another way SimCity accurately captures in the leading edge of urban planning is through its use of Big Data. Cities around the world are using sensors to measure everything from energy and water usage to pollution levels and crime trends. The game puts the player at the helm of the ultimate smart city as it tracks just about every metric of life in the simulation. At the click of a button, dynamic, colorful maps—inspired by the infographics of data scientist Edward Tufte—present real-time data on traffic, crime, pollution, public health, property values, and much more. (There’s even a map showing human waste as it flows to sewage treatment plants—a gross, mesmerizing way to find the tempo of a city.)

The real problem for the game’s designers: figuring out how to turn massive amounts of data into meaningful information. “We knew from previous SimCitys that there’s this data overload that can happen that turns off a lot of players,” said Stone Librande, SimCity’s lead designer. [...] That’s a fact that real cities need to realize as they embrace technology and data to help inform their citizens. They can collect and release all kinds of data, but it’s essentially meaningless if it’s not presented in a useful way.

Property Profs may also enjoy that FastCoExist brought together a bunch of urban planners to play SimCity, thinking that they would come together to create an urban utopia, yet the planners ended up becoming awfully competitive.

Steve Clowney

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