Tuesday, 28 September 2010

From SimCity to UrbanSim: Computer Games to Change How We Live

Probably the only computer game I ever played with pleasure was SimCity, which the kids acquired shortly after it came out in the Mac version. At the time, I checked out games as they came in the house, more or less the way I looked over the books the kids borrowed from the library--not to censor, but just to know what they were thinking about.

SimCity seemed an order of magnitude more interesting than the other games, which were mostly about eliminating creatures of one sort of another. (We did refuse to buy war games until Lukas got hooked on World War II and saved his money for a whole series like A Bridge Too Far.) You could create an alternate world with SimCity though, you could do experiments with cities like you could do in real life.

My books Green City and The Walkable City may owe their existence to the possibilities that SimCity suggested, I think now on reflection. And so I should not have been surprised this morning when I followed through on a link from our friend and former neighbor Zvi Leve to a series of articles in the Journal of Transport and Land Use on modeling of transportation and other systems called UrbanSim. Interesting stuff, although some of it looks more technical than I can deal with comfortably. But maybe that means I'm just ready to go to the next level!

Note: I've just come across an article in The Atlantic that claims that UrbanSim ws developed to practice counterinsurgency in Baghdad. Not sure yet how this computes.

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