Cilvia challenges architects to treat planning as more of a game

Urban planning is a rules-based game. Participants in the planning process have goals they wish to accomplish and constraints governing how their objectives can be achieved. Nowhere is this more the case than in London, where a complex series of regulations and protected sightlines have conspired to create ungainly clusters of misshapen towers. (The Shard, anyone?) Architects are already playing the planning game, but they are playing it clumsily. That, in effect, was the conclusion the Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright and Monica Ulmanu came to in their interactive visualization of the city’s future skyline (come to think of it, that also…

Nova Alea

Nova Alea has a go at criticizing the state of urban housing

Molleindustria’s Nova Alea is a parable in search of a game. It is the story of real estate speculation, housing bubbles, and capitalism run amok. The story takes place on a chessboard—that or a graveyard for skyscrapers. Maybe both. “For its masters,” the gentle-voiced narrator intones, “the city was a matrix of financial abstractions.” Note the use of the past tense: that’s the first sign you’re inside a parable. The powers of finance are represented by a tilted pink cube—think Tony Rosenthal’s “Alamo,” but cuter—that floats above the city. More accurately, it looms, dropping capital in underdeveloped neighborhoods and hopefully…


Playing Paris like a game

I have never been to Paris. In my provincial life I’ve never even left the United States. Despite or, perhaps, due to my localism, I was beguiled by the vision of the city given by Luc Sante in his 2015 book The Other Paris. Sante provides an underground history of the city, of its crime and prostitution, its low-wage work and lowbrow entertainments, its intoxications and insurrections. As fluent as he is with tales of murderous gangsters and wayward streetwalkers, what really comes across in The Other Paris is Sante’s deep mourning for the lost topography of the city. The…


Soviet City will turn urban planning into terror control

City building games are rarely exercises in democracy. The player’s agency stems from her role as a central planner; she designs cities that hopefully please their residents, but this is not a consultative, bottom-up process. Considerate urban planning in the city-building game is an act of benevolent dictatorship. Soviet City, a forthcoming strategy game for PC, takes this association between city builders and central planning to its logical extension. Instead of being set in the deracinated utopia of most city builders, the game is set in soviet Russia, a place that may have wanted to be seen as a utopia…


The gorgeous, empty dystopia of Anno 2205

Beginning with its first release, Anno 1602: Creation of a New World (1997), the Anno series has distinguished itself from a crowded field of strategy games by making economic competition, rather than military action, the focus of its simulation. Though Anno looked to the past for the first decade of its existence, the series turned towards the near-future with the excellent Anno: 2070 (2011), which tread new “historical” ground in familiar, materialist footwear. Anno 2205, the latest release in Ubisoft’s dependable series, picks up where 2070 left off; humanity is on the verge of interplanetary colonization and a rush for…


The Tower Inverted still looks longingly to the sky

The Tower Inverted is a game in the same way that a leisurely stroll through the park can be a game: Who knows what you’ll find? Granted, the things you’ll find in The Tower Inverted aren’t a total surprise. To wit, here’s a far from comprehensive list: conical trees, low-slung huts, glowing globes, fractured earth, and towers. So many towers. Those towers are the real attraction in The Tower Inverted. The game’s ostensible goal is to find the path to the next level, but that is hardly a challenge. “Generally,” its documentation notes, “the exit for each level can be…


Learn the science of the subway in Mini Metro

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Mini Metro (PC, Mac)  BY Dinosaur Polo Club New York City admits now that it made a mistake when first rejecting Massimo Vignelli’s subway map back in 1972. It had a modernist design that favored clarity over the clutter of trying to be geographically correct. This meant a preference for turning the urban sprawl into a series of straight lines and bold colors. This visual design is something we’ve come to expect of subway maps these days. And it’s what Mini Metro, a strategy game about…


Cards Against Urbanity lets you study and mock urban planning at the same time

The difference between Cards Against Humanity and the sort of flashcards used for revision is, I suppose, that the latter can come in a greater range of colours. Sure, “a cat video so cute your eyes roll back and your spine slides out your anus” is not the typical exam prompt, but the mechanics are fundamentally the same. Flip the card over; deal with the hand fate has dealt you. maybe it’s a little bit worrying  Cards Against Urbanity, which applies its generalist forebear’s mechanics to the lexicon of urban planners, splits the difference between these approaches. Its cards can…


Now you can test if your Cities: Skylines creations actually work for humans

In city builder games, the player is god. No capitalization is called for here: She is looking on from on high, but she is not omnipotent; she must watch human forces desecrate her creations from the heavens above. Most games grant their players agency they would otherwise lack, but the risk of POV-induced hubris looms large in city builders. These are games about building human environments, yet the actual humans tend to only matter on an aggregate level. When it comes to the lives of individual citizens, on the other hand, Orson Welles’ speech from The Third Man comes to…