Yes, the first attempt at a comprehensive city planning game, Sim City, is 30 years old. Jessica Roy in the Los Angeles Times has a good piece on how the game helped turn people onto city planning …
Along the way, the games have introduced millions of players to the joys and frustrations of zoning, street grids and infrastructure funding — and influenced a generation of people who plan cities for a living. For many urban and transit planners, architects, government officials and activists, “SimCity” was their first taste of running a city. It was the first time they realized that neighborhoods, towns and cities were things that were planned, and that it was someone’s job to decide where streets, schools, bus stops and stores were supposed to go.
… while also reinforcing some bad 20th century ideologies. Sim City …
- conceals the impacts of parking, thereby making car-dependent development look more functional and attractive than it is.
- requires single-use zoning. You can’t live above your shop, or have a grocery store in your office building.
- requires car access to every building. Pedestrianized urban cores are impossible, no matter the density.
- treats transit very superficially, not allowing the user to specify routes and frequencies, and giving the misleading impression that any kind of transit, anywhere, produces some vague benefit. Thus there is nothing to stop you from common mistakes like building high density in culdesacs, where efficient transit could never get to it.
Recently, I did a quick look at available iPad city planning games. I tried Megapolis, Designer City, Pocket City, and Sim City: BuildIt. They’re all built on the same four fallacies, and their handling of transit ranges from comical to nonexistent. (Sim City BuildIt actually starts with a greenfield freeway interchange, leaving no doubt what kind of city they expect you to build.)
My past articles on SimCity are here, here, here, and here. Sim City gets credit as a pioneer, but it’s run its course. I hope we see more planning games that try to get transportation right, and games that try to do transit in particular. If you’re working on one, let’s talk!