We need a game…

A City Building Game, that can help us get excited about the sustainable, fast, compact, brilliant cities of the future.

I got on this kick recently after reading this article from the BBC on how city life is changing humans. But what is also really exciting are the articles on the left side bar, fascinating stuff on cities of the future. And I want in. I spent hours playing Cities XL after reading this, but I want even more, a more complicated City Game, in which we can actually test prospects for how to build sustainable cities. These days I’ve been playing a lot of sims, too. What are my sims doing? Being farmers. Wouldn’t it be cool if games like these could integrate some of the ideas from the Civilization gameplay of progress, technology, and supply-and-demand?

In this game, I imagine that the baseline would be the citizens of the city itself. They would be the engine. Maybe, you could start with a large city and need to “fix” it. Maybe you could start with an empty map and build a city that was strong and a global innovator for technology and progress. I think what’s been missing from the Sim City and Cities XL of the 21st Century are the lack of concentration on building something that *innovates* like a real city does. There are no structures in the game engine to push the player to really want to find new resources, or figure out new ways of doing things. The structure of the city itself is locked, especially in Cities XL, which has been my longtime favorite. But what if, through your building and gameplay, the game could itself imagine new ways of responding to challenges? Spore might have been onto this, but I never played it.

Here are some things I imagine this game doing:

  1. I am imagining a base-game like Cities XL, with resources, citizens, industries, commerce, and global trade. 
  2. However, in the game that I imagine, there will be the pressures of a rapidly changing world: climate change, resource scarcity, etc, that will cause major problems for your city and other cities. You would “win” the game, when you are able to stabilize these problems, ie, achieve sustainability.
  3. Your investment in certain factors in your citizens lives will promote innovation on their part: in their jobs, in their free time, and in their personal lives. Healthier, better educated, better paid or better connected citizens will have more time to innovate both at home and at work. Your citizen’s welfare will contribute to their desire to innovate, and then your city’s economic conditions will contribute to their ability to innovate. Like in The Sims, different personality traits in your citizens can trigger various kinds of innovation. So, if your bus system is causing pollution in your city, maybe if you help your bus company to hire scientists, you can help reduce the pollution by innovating on the busses.
  4. You could gather global political clout for your city and then start to affect changes in other cities on the globe, if your own city has new ideas to share.
  5. Because the game will be very complicated, you could tell the computer to run certain aspects of it with an AI, like in Civ.
  6. Basically it is a game that would start from where we are now, and then put an engine inside to simulate what kinds of things need to be done to grow a city and make it better than our cities are now. As we build the city in gameplay, it evolves. You would help it evolve, and no game would be quite like another game.

I want to see this made! Who out there will help me? I’ll spend years playing and writing about my findings.

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