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Article

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…

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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…

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Review

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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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The Sharing Economy isn’t about sharing

Sharing is largely incidental to what has come to be known as the “sharing economy.” It is simply a solution to the larger problem of allocating resources. Let’s say you have a possession—it doesn’t have to be a car or a domicile. Let’s call it a widget. You use it some, but definitely not all of the time. This is silly. You have paid for full-time ownership of the widget yet it sits dormant most of the time. Other people who want to use a widget will buy their own widgets and also use it some of the time. Assuming…

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What’s the difference between a maze and a city? In CNNT, you’ll never know for sure

Maze designers are under no obligation to make their creations difficult to traverse. A maze is simply a collection of branching routes, one of which leads to an exit on the other side. In theory, these routes can be readily navigable, and in that sense all cities are mazes. In practice, however, maze design encourages obscurantism: Insofar as the shortest route from point A to point B is always straight line, it’s hard to care about efficiency while adding roadblocks. CNNT, which was created by Lazy Penguin for A Game By Its Cover 2015, attempts to reconcile these two interpretations…