Games: Planning at Play
The groundbreaking urban planning simulation SimCity was released 30 years ago last year, which means city halls, transportation authorities, and development agencies are now increasingly being staffed by planners who were shaped by this influential computer game.
And while this venerable classic — now in its sixth edition — continues to capture the interest of young and old urbanists alike, the past few years has seen a flourish of new and fun options to educate, amuse, and distract the busy city planner.
GEOGUESSR. Cleverly exploiting Google Streetview's global image archive, this online "where am I now?" game offers a master class in wayfinding, with deep lessons for planners interested in what makes a place legible to visitors. Players are dropped into a random location — anywhere on the entire planet — and must explore to figure out where they are. ("Are those signs in Spanish? I guess that means I'm in Spain — or somewhere in South, or Central, America? Or Los Angeles or Newark, for that matter. Oh, geez, this is tougher than I thought ..."). Play the limited edition for free, or upgrade for additional features.
MINI METRO. This solo transit strategy game from Dinosaur Polo Club is fast, beautiful, and hypnotic to the point of addiction. The game starts simply enough: The player selects a city and is presented with a few subway stations to connect, thereby ferrying a few patient, abstract riders back and forth. But as time passes and additional stations pop up to serve a growing population, the pressure begins to mount.
CARDS AGAINST URBANITY. Tired of trying to generate a shared process to develop consensus on a communal vision for a plan to create a mission statement for a comprehensive placemaking strategy? Inspired by the raucous and irreverent party game Cards Against Humanity, this satirical game pulls no punches poking fun at the jargon, bureaucracy, endless meetings, shelved aspirations, and fads and frustrations of life as a planner. Originally funded through Kickstarter, it's now available for free.
Beyond these games, readers may also want to explore the many free online and downloadable offerings in the Games for Cities free database. Find something to play for your next planners game night!
Ezra Haber Glenn, AICP, is Planning's regular film reviewer. He teaches at MIT's Department of Urban Studies & Planning and writes on cities and film at Urban Film.
Reports: Dwindling Biodiversity
The World Wildlife Fund's new Living Planet Report 2020 should concern planners and nonplanners alike. Between 1970 and 2016, Earth's animal populations decreased by an average of 68 percent. Agricultural land uses that require the clearing of delicate habitats are primarily to blame, meaning planners could be key to devising noninvasive uses of the planet's limited resources. Get the full report.
—Kelly Wilson is APA's digital asset specialist.
Planners Playlist: Back to the Future
Talking Headways, the long-running mobility and urban design podcast from Streetsblog USA, recently released its 300th episode. After more current examinations of public health and racial justice, the milestone recording revisited Raymond Unwin's seminal book Town Planning in Practice with a new audio version of the first chapter. While it was first published in 1909, its exploration of urban design best practices still holds up for planners building the future today.