Video Games and Urban Planning

Andy Fang
Andy Fang
Jan 19 · 5 min read

Video games have never been known for how creative they are. People talk about the most popular genres of video games, such as first-person shooter games (FPS) like Call of Duty from Activision, role-playing games (RPG) like Grand Theft Auto, and massively multiplayer online games (MMO) like World of Warcraft. The top-rated video game in 2019 was a role-playing game, while the most popular game in 2018 was a massively multiplayer online game and a roleplaying game (MMORPG). Some demographics of people, like my mom, consider video games a “waste of time”; or according to the mainstream media, video games seemed to be linked to aggression in players.

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Games like World of Warcraft fit underneath the genre of MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online and roleplaying games) and are massively popular. (VentureBeat)

CNN published a full article describing how experts talk about how “video games can cause real-world violence”. But CNN only talks about shooters or other video game genres that can cause rage within people. Sure, the argument can be made that anything can cause rage. Certain smells or something seemingly calm can still cause someone to rage. For example, I play Animal Crossing and it’s supposed to be a peaceful and calm game, right? Not for me, I get infuriated if I don’t get the fishies I want, or maybe I can’t find anything that I’m specifically looking for.

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Animal crossing is supposed to be a perfect game for users to play and relax. Not for me though. (Outsider Gaming)

I would argue, however, that there are video games out there which are more special than the rest. Some games might have a spectacular story that conveys a good message rather than games that have sequels each year and each sequel is just the same game over and over again.

There are games out there that try to get people to think outside the box or to create something. For example, Minecraft is a well-known game developed by Mojang that sparks imagination in youth and adults alike. It’s a game that can be enjoyed by all, doesn’t matter how old you are or who you are. The basic idea of the game is that people use their imagination to build and construct buildings and landmarks. They can build anything they want, whether it’s an image of a celebrity or a replica of the Great Wall of China. They can even build full-scale cities in the game. When I was younger I was heavily influenced by Minecraft, it helped me use my imagination to build cool and good-looking structures. Minecraft has helped me grow mentally. Now that I am older, I am able to use my imagination to better visualize and construct certain ideas using shapes, forms and space.

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Players are able to build a huge city in Minecraft. (Minecraft Big City Build)

There is another similar game that I really enjoyed playing and that is Cities: Skylines. This game was the reason why I took interest in urban planning. Similar to Minecraft, as a player you are encouraged to think outside the box in Cities: Skylines. However, there are some differences between the two games. The basic idea of Cities: Skylines is that you not only have the opportunity to plan a city, but you also manage its budget, transportation and different land uses areas like commercial, industrial and residential. Cities that slowly develop with your assistance become bigger and bigger, with their populations growing from zero to thousands or maybe even millions. Sadly, these sorts of games are very under appreciated, and the average 13-year-old would much rather pick Call of Duty over Cities: Skylines if it came to these two choices. However, games like Minecraft and Cities: Skylines actually give young people a little insight into possible career paths such as urban planning. Although, I believe more game developers should build games that assist younger audiences into pursuing something that they enjoy doing.

The media and older audiences seem to always perceive and generalize video games as a “mental wrecker”; destroying youths’ mental state, wasting their time, and taking away focus from more important things such as studying. Well, truthfully, youth are indeed a very manipulative audience and the way they think can be easily influenced and affected by video games. However, Minecraft and Cities: Skylines show that there are video games that can help youth develop their own ideas, and be a creative tool to understand what it’s like in certain fields of study, such as urban planning.

When parents or guardians are purchasing games for their children, they have to make the mindful choice as not to affect their children’s thinking in a negative way. As children are growing, their minds are more impressionable and the time that they spend on video games would undoubtedly affect their development. There are great video games in the market that can bring out the real inner thoughts and dream within children, helping them realize what they want to do in life, or how they feel towards a certain situation or topic, and maybe even help them develop mentally.

One caveat though: video games sometimes over-simplify how certain careers function in real life. They take away the harder and more complicated parts of careers and try to represent them with simple and easy-going parts. For example, in Cities: Skylines, only one person dictates how a city develops, but in real life, a city doesn’t develop underneath one person’s direction, there are a lot more people involved in developing a city. Game developers take out just enough to leave a little bit of truth or simulation, so when a customer plays the game they get a little insight into that career, and they take away harder parts because then the game is easier to sell and it’s more fun for the audience. Video games make careers seem a lot easier compared to if you had that same career in real life.

Simplification aside, video game producers and the games that they produce have the power to influence and change peoples’ minds about what they want to do in life. Video games can impact people’s lives even if they were just meant to serve as entertainment. After all, they did help me decide on a potential career path in life. Similarly, I believe the right type of video games can help other young people learn more about future careers and interests.

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