How gamers are having fun by reinventing sustainable urban models

Urban planning videogame Skyline

© Cities: Skyline

Cities: Skyline is a newcomer to the stage of urban planning games. It invites players to build their own city that addresses the issues of sustainable development. Its creator, Karoliina Korppoo, explains how gamification can raise awareness of the real-life issues facing cities.

The theme of building and developing cities has been around for a long time in video games. Did the interest in sustainability arrive with a new generation of players?

Karoliina Korppoo: I think that the human mind loves to create and to take care of its creations. Cities: Skyline is based on this principle, because players create their own cities and have to make choices that have positive or negative effects on them. This feature is not really specific to the new generation. Players of all ages seek to do the right thing for their own creations. Our game encourages this trend by offering a system of rewards based on sustainable choices. By way of example, the inhabitants will be happier if pollution is reduced or if the player builds a solar power plant.

How did you transform all the complexity of urban development into a gaming experience?

K.K.: Most of all, we wanted to create a game-based world, rather than a realistic simulation, especially because I can imagine that managing a city is not so much fun in real life! We looked closely at numerous urban planning games. Unlike those games in which the player is in complete control of housing, resources and people, we adopted an approach along the lines of SimCity 2000, where players cannot control everything and they must take the needs and wishes of the residents in terms of urban facilities and infrastructures into consideration.

Players often discuss the cities they create online. Does Cities: Skyline introduce a serious gaming dimension that prompts people to really think about resourceful cities?

K.K.: Yes, I think it does. In the forums, most of the exchanges are about the game itself, but links do exist with real-life urban planning, which makes it more than just a game. Players compare the cities they create with the cities where they live, and, in doing so, become more aware of how they function. Take the example of waste management: when a player leaves a can in a dustbin, it does not simply vanish. They have to think about the next steps in the cycle, from collection to reuse. As creators, they face a kind of challenge and have to take responsibility for these matters.

Find the full article in the second issue of open_resource magazine: “Shaping resourceful cities


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