March 6, 2019

WE ARE ALL DESIGNIST NOW:

From video game to day job: How 'SimCity' inspired a generation of city planners (JESSICA ROY, MAR 05, 2019, LA Times)

Jason Baker was studying political science at UC Davis when he got his hands on "SimCity." He took a careful approach to the computer game.

"I was not one of the players who enjoyed Godzilla running through your city and destroying it. I enjoyed making my city run well."

This conscientious approach gave him a boost in a class on local government. Instead of writing a term paper about three different models for how cities can develop, Baker proposed building three scenarios in "SimCity," then letting the game run on its own and writing about how his virtual cities fared.

He ended up getting an A. Playing "SimCity," Baker said, "helped remind me of the importance of local government, which is what I ended up doing for a living."

Today, Baker is the vice president of transportation and housing at the nonprofit Silicon Valley Leadership Group. He served as a council member in Campbell, Calif., from 2008 to 2016, a tenure that included two stints as mayor.

Thirty years ago, Maxis released "SimCity" for Mac and Amiga. It was succeeded by "SimCity 2000" in 1993, "SimCity 3000" in 1999, "SimCity 4" in 2003, a version for the Nintendo DS in 2007, "SimCity: BuildIt" in 2013 and an app launched in 2014.

Along the way, the games have introduced millions of players to the joys and frustrations of zoning, street grids and infrastructure funding -- and influenced a generation of people who plan cities for a living. For many urban and transit planners, architects, government officials and activists, "SimCity" was their first taste of running a city. It was the first time they realized that neighborhoods, towns and cities were things that were planned, and that it was someone's job to decide where streets, schools, bus stops and stores were supposed to go.

Posted by at March 6, 2019 4:03 AM

  

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