Can Video Games Determine Your Future? It Did for Current City Planners who Played 'SimCity'
When asked, most people aspire to be an entertainer, an athlete, or a brilliant scientist. But how many kids say they want to be city planners?
Maybe the question should be, “what video games do you like?” to decipher someone’s future occupation. That seems to be the determining factor for players of “SimCity” who have grown up to have be architects, urban planners, and government officials.
The LA Times interview some current high-ranking transportation and housing planners who admitted to being enthusiasts of the 1989 ‘SimCity’ series when they were younger.
Former Campbell Mayor, Jason Baker currently is the vice president of transportation and housing for Silicon Valley Leadership group. Baker told the LA Times that when he was in college, he had to write a term paper regarding different models for city development. The young student at the time instead chose to run three different city builds in the game and wrote about the outcomes of each virtual scenario. Baker received an A for his project.
Jason Baker wasn’t the only one who was inspired to run a city through the video game. Acting senior transportation planner for Caltrans in downtown L.A, Cuong Trinh, got his first taste of city building in junior high and program official for the National Assn. of City Transportation Officials in New York City, Nicole Payne started playing when she was 10. All three admitted to preferably playing without “disaster” mode turned on, which allows various natural disasters, like earthquakes and hurricanes (and unnatural disasters, like Godzilla) to happen at random and rather enjoy creating self-sustaining cities in the game.
While the series introduces the pleasure and disappointments of zoning, street grids and infrastructure funding, many city planners point out that the game oversimplifies what urban planning entails. Most decisions in the game are binary: Too much crime? Simply build a police station. Too much traffic? Just make a new road in seconds. No need for silly mundane requirements like majority council approval or writing reports regarding population characteristics. In fact, the race and priorities of a city’s population tends to not matter at all in the video game series where they are significant factors in the real world.