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I owe quite a lot to games... I point the finger at the classic SimCity for being one of the foremost reasons why I went into transportation engineering & planning; and a mixture of SimCity 4 and Transport Tycoon helped solidify a love of traffic operations & how land use interrelates with transportation. Both of those games still fare among my most-played games, though regrettably Civilization III has not yet morphed into a practical real-world dictatorial role.


A bit of a side note - it makes a lot of sense to develop such educational games as open source. If done well, it allows:
a) share a game if player likes it
b) build a developer community around it that can keep project going on much longer than when run by individual or e.g. group of students

Cap'n Transit

Let me put in a word of caution. Games are based on models, and the wrong models can lead us to inappropriate conclusions. See this post from two years ago.


Agreed, Cap'N Transit... but personally I wouldn't mind seeing a few more engineers & planners with a passion for their work. In my area I can count them with several fingers to spare! Games (even with their fallacies) can certainly be a great aid.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Cap'n.  I agree that games are only models.  But models have such a massive impact in real world planning, that it's almost a kind of realism to work within them! 


I agree with Cap'n that there are real risks in making simulations/games to model planning ideas, and with Jarrett on the impact. Bias creeps in without even knowing it, so it has to be managed and navigated well.

SimCity oversimplified planning (no mixed use?!) and that made sprawl part of the end result. Apparently it wasn't interesting the be realistic – according to Will Wright. I disagree, and think it's almost a responsibility to move into realism to create a teaching moment.

So I think there's a huge opportunity to do it right, which is what I was addressing in that article. There is so much activity in the gaming world and at the same time, planning is going through huge shifts in the tools it uses. Games like Cities in Motion are already working with the same ideals pro-transit folks. It's also Europe-based team, meaning they live and breathe the benefits of transit daily.

And as a side, I don't think games/models need to be exact models of cities, but need to be real enough to express specific concepts and allow exploration. There's always going to be something left out because exact modeling is impossible. We already live in the 1:1 model of the world.


Where can one access these city planning games?

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Mac.  Google them.


There's a term for older games that aren't published anymore or not available for modern-generation computer OSs: abandonware.

I was looking through an abandonware site and it had copies of the late 1980s and early 1990s simulation classics.

G-Man (Type E)

Check out Community Transit's Transit Values Exercise at http://www.commtrans.org/News/TransitValues.cfm

It's not perfect but a pretty interesting game and results in people walking away better informed about how hard this is.

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the firm

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