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Potential of Games in the Field of Urban Planning



The implementation of games and game principles has been a specific approach in the context of urban planning and development for a long time. There has been an increasing number of games specifically designed for supporting decision-making and public participation in planning processes, as well as in the education of urban planners. Yet, there is a lack of analysis of urban games as it relates to their possible contribution to the field of urban planning. This paper provides a summary of the main developments of games in the urban context with an overview of recent examples, and explores interrelations of game genres and platforms, and potential fields of implementation.
Potenal of Games in the Field of Urban Planning
Eszter Tóth1
HafenCity University Hamburg
Abstract: e implementation of games and game principles has been a
specic approach in the context of urban planning and development for a
long time. ere has been an increasing number of games specically de-
signed for supporting decision-making and public participation in planning
processes, as well as in the education of urban planners. Yet, there is a lack
of analysis of urban games as it relates to their possible contribution to the
eld of urban planning. is paper provides a summary of the main develop-
ments of games in the urban context with an overview of recent examples,
and explores interrelations of game genres and platforms, and potential elds
of implementation.
Keywords: urban planning, urban games, game genres, application elds,
games for planning, games for participation, games for learning
e act of playing is intrinsically tied to human life. As Johan Huizinga stated
in his inuential work on the role and importance of play in culture and society,
play is an essential condition for the formation of culture (Huizinga, 1938). Al-
though he argues that play is not a serious activity, he notes that it has a “signi-
cant function” and imparts meaning to action. Play in his denition is spatially
and temporally isolated from real life, embedded in a self-contained system of
rules, which he calls the magic circle. But does the meaning of play only relate
to the action of play without having any impact on the rest of daily life?
1 Contact:
On the other hand, since the end of the 19th century, function-centric theo-
rists have emphasized the biological or social functions of play (Flitner, 2002).
Psychologists tried to nd empirical evidence for the benecial eects of play,
whether relating to the release of energy, to practice moral or cognitive skills,
or to strengthen players self-awareness (Sutton-Smith, 1997). ese theories de-
scribe play as merely a tool for accomplishing certain functions, but they are not
able to explain why people like to play (Rodriguez, 2006).
In the second half of the 20th century, several research studies were conducted
in the eld of developmental and social psychology, focusing on the phenom-
enon of play experience. e sensation of fun, pleasure and engagement, which
Csíkszentmihályi denes as the state of ow, proved to be an essential quality of
games (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990). Flow experience can foster intrinsic motivation
and therefore has a reinforcing eect in learning processes (Gee, 2003). In paral-
lel with the growing number of empirical results on the impact of play on perfor-
mance, attitude, motivation and social behavior, games were introduced into dif-
ferent elds of education and training. Framed in a formalized set of rules, these
games built upon the motivational and cognitive eects of play. More and more
games were designed for serious purposes, for a purpose beyond play (Klopfer,
Osterweil, & Salen, 2009, p. 1). Nowadays, games are conceived as established
tools in dierent elds, such as learning and education, prevention or therapy
(Wiemeyer & Göbel, 2011). New domains are emerging, ready for the involve-
ment of games for everyday practices. Games attract more and more attention in
the eld of urban planning as well. An increasing number of games are designed
specically for supporting decision-making and the participation of residents in
planning processes, as well as in the education of urban planners.
is paper examines the potential of games and game principles in the eld
of urban planning. First, I will explore the relevance and suitability of games as
tools in the process of urban planning. is will be followed by a short historical
overview on game principles implemented in urban planning processes. en I
will examine how games can contribute to urban planning by analyzing recent
games designed for this specic purpose. Finally, I will conclude by discussing
the possible improvement of the implementation of games and game principles
in urban planning, with potential directions for further research.
Relevance and suitability of games in the els od urban planning
In order to explore the rationale for games in the context of urban planning,
it is necessary to dene the term game as the object of investigation. As a large
body of research on games shows, there is not one prevalent denition (Huizinga,
1938; Callois, 1961; Abt, 1970; Sutton-Smith, 1997; Salen & Zimmerman, 2003).
e way we dene games always depends on the specic context in which games
are examined. In this study, I apply the denition of Salen and Zimmerman
(2003), who dene a game “as a system in which players engage in an articial
conict by rules, that results in a quantiable outcome” (p. 80). us, games can
be understood as systems which consist of a set of parts, such as game elements
or attributes, and as interrelations of these elements within the context of a game.
ese elements interrelate to a whole complex system.
Considering games as complex systems and as “procedural representations of
aspects of reality” (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003, p. 55) generates the bridge to-
wards urban environments. Cities encompass simple components that interact
within a complex system involving both physical and social systems. By relating
game components with those of an urban environment, they can simulate mech-
anisms and dynamics of the urban space. Moreover, they can create a space to
experience real situations compressed in time, communicate and visualize very
complex data, and experiment with ideas without any consequences in real life.
us, they permit “learning about the process of change in a dynamic environ-
ment requiring periodic decisions” (Sano, 1979, p. 1).
But more than just being simulations of reality providing an enjoyable experi-
ence, games can engage and motivate people in activities for an extended pe-
riod of time. e experience of pleasure results from a challenging activity and
the clear goals of the game, the clear and ongoing feedback resulting in conse-
quences for the progress, and the paradox of having control in an uncertain situ-
ation, among other elements. e psychologist Csíkszentmihályi (1990) refers to
this exceptional state of mind as the optimal experience, which he calls ow. In
the state of ow, players can immerse themselves in concentration and they are
fully engaged with their activity. However, ow is not unique to digital games. It is
an essential characteristic of the activity of play. us, games can increase motiva-
tion and strengthen positive attitude through the optimal experience.
Based on these considerations, games have been part of a specic approach
in the context of urban planning and development for a long time. is paper
provides a summary of the main developments in the eld of urban games, with
an overview of recent examples, and reects potential areas of implementation
and directions of further research.
e history of games in the eld of urban planning
Game elements found their way into the eld of urban planning as civilian
applications of simulation games as early as the 1950s. At that time, simulation
gaming – already an established training and planning tool in the military eld
– opened up to new domains like education and business management training.
Referring to the functionality and practical implementation of those games, con-
temporary sources use the term “operational gaming” (e.g. Abt, 1970; Armstrong
& Hobson, 1972; Duke, 1964, 2011). Many of the early games implemented in the
eld of urban planning were “products of local needs”, developed at universities
on the commission of local municipalities, and had been played only a couple of
times without being published (Mayer, Bekebrede, Bilsen, & Zhou, 2009, p. 170).
e early examples of simulation games in the eld of urban planning served
mainly to support stakeholders’ understanding of the complexities of urban plan-
ning processes. e game sessions were addressed mainly to professionals and
decision makers, and had a very tight link to reality: the simulations were gener-
ally based on real data and players oen represented their own role in a game.
Games focused mainly on city management, land use, and resource manage-
ment. From this perspective, these early examples of urban planning games can
be considered simulations rather than games.
Two of the rst pioneers to introduce the concept of simulation games in urban
planning and policy were Richard Meier and Richard Duke. Commissioned by
the Lansing, Michigan, City Council, Duke developed a simulation game on com-
munal budgeting issues in order to support consensus nding processes amongst
members of the municipality (Duke, 1964). He developed a playfully structured
process known as Metropolis that simulated the city budget decision sequence. In
subsequent years, as Director of the Environmental Simulation Lab (ESL) at the
University of Michigan he had the opportunity to work with Meier on the rene-
ment of his game concept and to develop a more sophisticated computer driven
game called Metro. is computer simulation was later further developed, and
under the name Apex it is still in use in the practice of urban planning (Duke,
In 1960, CLUG (e Cornell Land Use Game), one of the rst board games
designed for planning purposes, was published. CLUG was developed by Allan
Feldt and colleagues, and it is also still in use in the education and practice of
urban planning.
Despite successful implementations, games could not break into this eld.
Armstrong and Hobson (1972) noted that apart from military and training
there are still only a few examples of the use of games for planning purposes. In
the same year, Schran (1972) claimed that even though Richard Duke presented
his Metropolis to a seminar in Berlin as early as 1967, it took more than a decade in
Germany to nd a broader recognition for the implementation of games for plan-
ning purposes. Armstrong and Hobson (1972) see the reason for disregarding
games in the delusion that they are not able to produce forecasts of future trends
and events, a goal essential to planners. In their article, they argue, however, that
operational games can indicate the types of dierent planning objectives and sup-
port understanding of the various interest groups involved. Hence, they can be an
eective tool for supporting planning processes. Based on these concerns, they
developed a number of simulation games in the context of regional planning at
the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham, and
dened an assessment model for operational games.
In the 1970s, in parallel with the proliferation of public participation, simu-
lation games were increasingly implemented in order to engage residents and
support open urban planning processes. Planners and developers built upon
the motivational eects of games. By implementing game elements and playful
processes in decision-making, they aimed to engage a broader audience in par-
ticipation. ese games, however, oen consisted of the typical rules of public
meetings, supplemented by a set of game rules. Simpolis, developed by Clark C.
Abt, was implemented in New York in order to assess possible reactions, crises
and consequences of urban planning decisions with local residents. Simpolis was
played in the public space of the Central Park Mall, where participants could
take optional roles, representing the dierent sectors of city administration, busi-
ness and civil society and discuss real or devised conict situations. New aspects
and arguments that arose during the simulation widened the perspective of
the participants and delivered tangible results for local politics. Abt described this
role-playing game in his inuential book Serious Games, published in 1970 (Abt,
1970). Abt Associates developed a number of simulation games for planning
purposes, such as Trade-o from 1968, where St. Louis residents could prepare
a redevelopment plan for their city within a certain budget, or Fair City (1970)
incorporated into the U.S. federal Model City Program.
In 1979, Henry Sano published a collection of urban planning games in his
book Design Games (Sano, 1979). ese games aim to provide a way to explore
environmental issues and engage people in discussions about planning situa-
tions. Sano describes a great variety of games, divided into dierent categories
according to their eld of implementation: to generate ideas, support individu-
als to make specic design choices or facilitate group consensus decisions. ey
can be considered more as playful exercises or, in some cases, decision-making
simulations than games.
From the seventies on, there were two relevant development elds for ur-
ban gaming: on the one hand, the rise of the commercial game market (e.g. Sid
Sacksons Metropolis), and on the other hand, the evolution of system dynamics
(Mayer et al., 2009). System dynamics is an approach that aims to understand
the behavior of complex systems like cities (Forrester, 1969). is approach in-
uenced not only urban planning professionals but also game designers. Will
Wright, inspired by the systems dynamics, developed the game SimCity, where
players have to think about cities as complex systems. Players step into the role
of an omnipotent mayor and build, develop and manage their city. Meanwhile,
they experience how each of their choices exert inuence on the whole urban
system. e game was published in 1989 and enjoyed immediate success among
the broader audience. Although it was intended as an entertainment game, it is
highly appreciated among urban planners and teachers as well. SimCity is widely
used as a didactic and modelling tool in educational and professional circum-
stances (Rufat & Minassian 2009; Mayer et al. 2009). Meanwhile, sim-like, open-
ended city builder games have captured the market (e.g. SimCity, CivCity Rome,
City Life), and keep inuencing the design of games developed for planning pur-
e proliferation of digital games and novel technologies has opened new ways
of playful urban planning. e new possibilities oered by videogames, computer
and mobile games concerned with communication, interconnection of spaces, vi-
sualization and experimentation changed the character of games and gamespace.
Furthermore, they exert inuence on how we perceive and experience the urban
space. Digital gamesare considered spatial representations (Borries, Böttger, &
Walz, 2007). Spaces created by digital games range from two dimensional ab-
stractions of spaces to complex constructions of social communities. ese digi-
tal spaces combined with the interactive systems of games make digital games
a powerful tool for modelling and simulating complex systems of urban space.
Zone 63065 was one of the earliest examples of computer games developed espe-
cially for planning purposes. e 3D real-time interactive adventure game was
launched in 1999. Players were able to follow the changes of urban spaces in Of-
fenbach, Germany, and by acting and experimenting in the virtual city learn new
ways of dealing with their own living environment (Grüttner, 2005).
Due to technological developments like wireless, mobile or GPS, digi-
tal games became mobile and pervasive. ey advanced the development of
a new type of space, engendered through superimposition of the physical and
the virtual spaces (Borries et al., 2007). In the so called “Alternate Reality Games,
physical and virtual space interconnects, opening up new possibilities for urban
planning games. Participatory Chinatown is a 3D multiplayer game, developed
to support the communication process on the new master plan for Bostons Chi-
natown neighborhood. It is meant to be played in the shared physical space of
a traditional master planning meeting and the virtual game, thus emphasizing
“the simultaneity of face-to-face and virtual situations” (Gordon & Schirra, 2011,
p. 180). Participatory Chinatown aims to motivate a broader audience to take part
in the discussion of community issues through the creation of an engaging, ludic
re ality.
In recent years, numerous examples of participatory games have been de-
signed for and implemented in urban planning processes. Especially in the eld
of public participation, the implementation of games is increasing, with the in-
teractive and engaging quality of games employed to motivate and involve dier-
ent target groups (e.g. Beckett & Shaer, 2005; Bagley & Shaer, 2011; Gordon
& Koo, 2008; Gordon & Schirra, 2008; Poplin, 2011, 2012, 2013; Tóth & Poplin
2013, 2014).
A comprehensive survey of games designed between 1999 and 2013 in the
context of urban planning was conducted in order to explore the interrelations
between the aims, the eld of implementation within the planning process and
the genre of games. I analyzed 19 games on the basis of dierent sources of infor-
mation, including empirical and conceptual articles, conference proceedings and
websites. Games selected for the analysis include analog, digital and pervasive
games. Each of these games has been designed to support urban planning and
development. Predened criteria of the analysis are the following:
- purpose of the game relating to urban planning
- eld of application within the planning process
- genre
- technology
- target group
- location
- empirical results on the eectiveness
First, the aims of a game were collected, e.g. understanding the complexity of
urban planning processes, fostering civic thinking, raising awareness of a certain
topic or involving a certain target group into the planning process). By analyz-
ing declared purposes of the selected urban planning games, the following main
categories could be dened: education, professional education, awareness raising,
communication among stakeholders, citizen engagement and data collection.
en the selected games were assigned systematically and thematically to one
of the categories. Subsequently, genre (e.g. role-play, strategy, adventure game),
technology (digital, analog or mixed), target group and location were identied.
Additionally, it was checked whether there were existing empirical results re-
garding the eectiveness of those games. en I analyzed interrelations between
the purpose of the games and their genres and platforms, in order to explore and
formulate guidelines for the design of urban games.
Fig. 1 shows the results of the analyses of selected urban games based on
the predened criteria. Games have been clustered according to the main cat-
CHINATOWN citizen engagement role-play mixed local community 2010 Boston
HUB2 citizen engagement second life mixed local community 2008 Boston
STADTSPIELER communication strategy game analog stakeholders 2009 none
STADT SPIELT STADT data collection simulation digital youth 2004 Görlitz,
B3 data collection simulation digital local community 2011 Hamburg
BLOCK BY BLOCK data collection second life digital youth 2013 Nairobi and
KARL ÄRGERE DICH NICHT data collection role-play analog youth 2012 Berlin
URBAN SCIENCE education role-play mixed students 2006 Madison,
ZONE 63065 education adventure digital local community 1999 Offenbach,
POP-UP PEST education strategy analog youth 2012 Budapest
PARTICIPÉCS education strategy analog youth 2014 Pécs, Hungary
CITYONE professional education simulation digital
urban planning
students and
2010 none
MADISON 2200 professional education role-play mixed urban planning
students 2003 Madison,
QUAG professional education role-play digital
urban planning
students and
2008 none
URBAN PLANNING professional education simulation digital
urban planning
students and
2013 Sydney
TYGRON SERIOUS GAMES professional education simulation digital stakeholders since 2005 none
BIG URBAN GAME awareness raising racing pervasive local community 2003 none
CAN YOU SEE ME NOW? awareness raising racing mixed local com munity 2003 none
INTERVENTIONS awareness raising miscellaneous pervasive local community 2014 Den Bosch
Figure 1. Results of the analyses of selected urban games
egories relating to their purpose: education, professional education, aware-
ness raising, communication among stakeholders, citizen engagement and
data collection. Additional categories helped to identify interrelations be-
tween the purpose of the games and their genre, technology and the focus on
specic target groups or locations. A short summary of each of the categories
Games for raising awareness
An increasing number of urban games are designed to raise people’s awareness
of urban issues. e design of games which aim to raise the awareness of loca-
tion specic issues and promote active civic engagement in the co-creation of
the urban space is tightly linked to a certain urban environment. ose games
generally have no specic target group, instead striving to reach a broader audi-
ence and involve as many people as possible. us, pervasive games in particular
are well suited to achieve these goals, taking place in given public spaces and
open to play for everyone. Montola, Stenros and Waern dene pervasive game as
“a game that has one or more salient features that expand the contractual magic
circle of play spatially, temporally or socially” (2009, p. 12). In pervasive urban
games, gamespace and real space overlap, as game activities happen in real public
spaces, involving spaces, objects and people outside of the magic circle and in
real time. “Pervasive games pervade, bend, and blur the traditional boundaries
of game, bleeding from the domain of the game to the domain of the ordinary”
(Montola, Stenros, & Waern, 2009, p. 12). us, pervasive urban games can in-
volve the broader public somewhat “accidentally” in gaming experiences dealing
with serious urban issues.
ese kinds of urban games usually promote informal, bottom-up initiatives
and encourage people into active participation in shaping the urban environ-
ment. ey are not usually linked to formal planning processes. Due to their
open format, it is hard to gain empirical data regarding the eectiveness of those
games, or data from participants. One of the most well-known pervasive urban
game, the Big Urban Game (BUG), was created in 2003 by the University of Min-
nesota’s Design Institute. e BUG aimed to promote awareness of the built envi-
ronment of the twin cities Minneapolis and Saint Paul and raise novel perceptions
for considering new strategies for improvements by encouraging people to move
huge pieces through the city (Lantz, 2007). Another example, the location-based
games created within the project Rezone Playful Interventions in 2013, aimed to
“involve visitors and stakeholders through play to the issue of abandoned post-
industrial heritage, and strengthen their sense of ‘ownership’” (de Lange, 2014).
Games fostering citizen engagement
Several games have been designed to empower a specic target group and
foster active participation in the co-creation of the urban space. Tied to a grow-
ing demand for the integration of disadvantaged social groups in participatory
urban planning that are usually under-represented in traditional forms of public
participation (Fürst & Scholles, 2008, p. 162), these games aim to foster citizen
engagement among diverse social groups such as children and youth, elderly
people or migrants. ese games build upon the motivational eects of a playful,
engaging environment and provide positive experiences relating to urban issues.
ey promote a civic attitude and values by engaging players in the ludic solu-
tion of complex civic problems. us, problem-solving and simulation games
in particular are appropriate for the purpose of fostering civic engagement in
which a player can experience active participation in a safe and closed environ-
ment, learn via models, as well as trial and error and explore dierent ways of
contribution and co-creation. Relating these experiences to real-life situations
through reection can strengthen the feeling of self-ecacy, an essential pre-
condition of civic engagement. ese games have a strong local focus, in order
to strengthen identity and the commitment to the community. ese games are
mostly collaborative or cooperative, based on collaborative problem-solving
rather than competition. ey can be implemented at the initial stage of a formal
urban planning process in order to explore the needs of local residents. Both
digital and analog games can be suitable tools for this purpose.
e Boston-based Engagement Game Lab has developed a number of games
with the above mentioned purpose, involving novel technologies and plat-
forms. Gordon and Koo argue, for example, that “that the immersive, playful,
and social qualities of the virtual world Second Life are uniquely appropriate
to engage people in dialogue about their communities” (2008:204). e au-
thors emphasize the possibility for sharing experiences of a collectively planned
space and “having the opportunity to deliberate over, comment on, and alter
that space” (2008:204). eir game called Hub2 is based on the platform Sec-
ond Life, in which participants can explore, rethink, rebuild and comment
on the selected neighborhood in Boston. Hub2 aims to engage local youth in
the planning of a neighborhood park, by oering a dierent, more ludic space
than a traditional community planning meeting. Hub2, similar to Participa-
tory Chinatown, a more recent game by Engagement Game Lab, is meant to be
played in the shared physical space of a traditional master planning meeting.
e game designers call this approach augmented deliberation which emphasizes
the simultaneity of face-to face and virtual situations (Gordon & Schirra, 2008).
Studies conducted on both games indicated that game sessions were success-
ful in attracting the predened target groups (Gordon & Koo, 2008, Gordon &
Schirra, 2008). Playing computer games embedded in a real participatory situ-
ation developed an understanding in players about local issues and made them
feel more connected to the community. However, the empathy developed within
the game Participatory Chinatowndid not convincingly transfer outside of the
magic circle to eect decisions made at the meeting immediately aer engaging
with the game” (Gordon & Schirra, 2008, p. 180).
Fostering communication among stakeholders
Experiences related to the implementation of simulation games in the con-
text of urban planning have shown how games can support the communication
process among stakeholders. Simulation games can develop the understand-
ing in participants of the complexity of the planning process, sensitize them to
other perspectives and create space for experimenting with dierent ideas with-
out any immediate consequences in the real world (Diekman & Leppert, 1978).
us, simulation games have been implemented in planning processes in order
to foster communication among stakeholders (see early urban planning simula-
tion games, such as CLUG, Simpolis, Trade-o, etc.). Another game genre ap-
plied in professional urban planning is role-play, in which players assume
the roles of characters such as stakeholders, planners or decision-makers
in the ctional setting of a planning process (e.g. QUAG, Madison2000). ese
games have a discursive character and generally address students, planners,
decision-makers or representatives of dierent interest groups familiar with
the planning situation. ey can either be related to a specic planning situa-
tion, based on real-world data and related to a specic location, or embedded in
a more abstract game context complemented by diverse playful elements.
A recent example is the board game Stadtspieler, developed by Netzwerk
Agens e.V. and published in 2009. Stadtspieler invites players to share and
discuss their ideas by modeling them in clay on the playing eld. ey can
take on dierent roles such as investor, citizen and urban planner, comment-
ing on and evaluating their ideas from dierent perspectives. e game can
be used for educational purposes, and as a tool in real-world planning situa-
tions, which facilitates communication between stakeholders.
Games for collecting data from citizens
Games can be a supportive tool in decision-making processes for gathering
data from dierent stakeholders. Considering games as procedural represen-
tations of aspects of reality indicates that interactions of players within the
game, the way they act and react to certain situations, strategies or plans can
serve as meaningful information for planners and decision-makers. Games
designed for the purpose of supporting participation in planning process-
es are interactive systems, which collect information about players’ prefer-
ences, needs and ideas relating to a certain urban development project or
plan. erefore, these games have to reect and represent a concrete situa-
tion. ey have to be linked to a specic location and oen embed context-
specic guidelines or parameters. Either analog or digital simulation games
or collaborative design environments (such as Second Life, for example in
the case of the game Block By Block) can serve this purpose, if the feedback of
the players is made available for planners and decision-makers to embed in
masterplans. However, in parallel with the proliferation of information and
communications technology-supported participation (also called e-partici-
pation), more and more digital games are designed to support public par-
ticipation. B3 is an example of a 3D online computer game which aims to
involve the broader public in a specic planning process. B3, developed by
students of the HafenCity University in Hamburg, enables players to design
their marketplace in Billstedt in the city of Hamburg. e game creates a play-
ful online platform for players to design their own market place and discuss
their suggestions with other citizens and urban planners.
Games for professional education
Simulation games can impart procedural knowledge regarding the plan-
ning and decision-making processes. Players have to deal with complex con-
ict situations within a given time-frame, motivating them to think creatively
and forcing them to comprehend and analyze the situation quickly (Diek-
man& Leppert, 1978). erefore, simulation games have been an established
tool in the academic education of urban planners. Due to technological de-
velopment, more and more videogames are applied as didactical tools in ur-
ban planning education (Adams, 1998; Squire, 2004; Gaber, 2007; Gordon &
Koo, 2008). Moreover, some urban systems modelling soware, e.g. MacSim,
have shied into games (Mayer et al., 2009). Several, mostly city-builder-like
simulation games have been developed in order to train urban planning stu-
dents and professionals, such as the game CityOne from IBM or the series of
Tygron Serious Games in the Netherlands (IBM, 2014; Tygron 2015). ese
games aim to support professionals in real-world problem-solving situations.
Games for education
Despite the proliferation of game-based learning in dierent content areas,
I discovered a lack of games designed specically for learning about urban is-
sues, urban planning or public participation. Most of the games mentioned
before have an incidental or secondary educational value, but there are only
a few examples that were designed specically for educational use and which
link pedagogical theories to the design of urban planning games. As research
from the eld of game-based learning shows, dierent learning goals require
dierent strategies of learning, and in consequence, in the case of game-based
learning, dierent game design (Schrader & McCreery, 2012). In the context of
learning about urban planning and urban space, Shaer (2006) suggests imple-
mentation of epistemic games. Based on the theory of situative learning and
communities of practice, he introduced epistemic games, “based on the ways in
which professionals acquire their epistemic frames” (p. 233). Epistemic frames
comprise practice, identity, interest, understanding and epistemology. It deter-
mines how a community understands the world – and each community has
a dierent epistemic frame. In what Shaer calls epistemic games, players act
like real world professionals and learn in authentic environments the epistemic
frames of a certain profession (Shaer, 2006, p. 233). Shaer and his colleagues
developed the games Madison 2200 and Urban Science at the University of
Wisconsin, Minnesota (Beckett & Shaer, 2005; Bagley & Shaer, 2011). Both
games can be considered augmented by reality learning environments, a com-
bination of urban planning simulation tools based on geographic information
system (GIS) and real-world urban planning practices. By playing the game,
high school students had to reshape a certain area of their city by taking on the
role of an urban planner. eir research showed that epistemic games helped to
develop students’ understanding of complex urban issues.
In order to contribute to the eld of educational games in the context of
urban planning, I conducted a design-based educational research project in
Pécs, Hungary, between 2013 and 2015. A cooperative educational board
game called ParticiPécs was developed in a collaborative design process involv-
ing youth and young experts. e aim of this research is to relate pedagogical
theories on cooperative learning with the theories on game design and con-
tribute to the eld of educational games in the context of urban planning. Par-
ticiPécs imparts patterns of action for active participation and aims to foster
learning about the co-creation of urban space by simulating real-world small-
scale urban interventions. It aims to raise the awareness of children and young
people about urban issues and to empower them to be active participants in
shaping the built environment. Fig. 2 shows the playing eld which represents
the extended downtown of Pécs.
During game design workshops, a cyclical optimizing of the prototype took
place. is part of the research incorporated cycles of analyses, design and de-
velopment of prototypes, formative evaluation and revision. e systematic
analyses of the design process will provide knowledge about the essential char-
acteristics of an intervention, as well as procedural knowledge about the set of
design activities useful and ecient for the development of such an interven-
tion (Plomp, 2007). In order to draw meaningful conclusions about a relation-
ship between the educational game ParticiPécs and the learning outcome of
participants, I plan to implement a learning experiment. is experiment will
be conducted in classroom contexts. A traditional design based on pre-testing
and post-testing will be implemented in order to provide evidence of students
learning achievements relating to an urban space and co-creation of a built
environment resulting from a game session.
Games have a lot of potential in the eld of urban planning. Due to their
ludic and engaging quality, they can raise people’s awareness of urban issues
and involve dierent social groups’ participatory planning processes. Games
can contribute to real-world decision-making processes by fostering commu-
nication amongst dierent stakeholders and supporting data collection from
citizens. Furthermore, games and game principles can be implemented eec-
tively in education, as well as in the professional training of urban planners. For
Figure 2. e game ParticiPécs
dierent purposes, dierent game genres with specic qualities and technology
can be implemented.
ere are a growing number of games designed specically for planning pur-
poses. Nevertheless, there is a lack of empirical data on the outcomes of such
playful planning processes. On the one hand, more quantitative data is needed
relating to the eectiveness of urban planning games, on the other hand more
qualitative data would be needed in order to understand how exactly games can
work in this specic context.
However, there are several good practices and procedures that can serve as a
direction for future research and development of urban games. rough fur-
ther analyses of games designed for the context of urban development, guide-
lines for game design with specic purposes can be formulated.
Despite the popularization of playful urban planning and game-based
learning, urban games have not yet been able to establish themselves in
the eld of education. One reason for that could be the lack of linkage of this
specic content to the curriculum. Knowledge related to the urban space is
only rarely connected explicitly to the curriculum. is makes the introduction
of urban games into classroom contexts more dicult. However, there is avail-
able research on the adaptation of urban games into institutional learning envi-
ronments (Beckett & Shaer 2005; Bagley & Shaer, 2009; Kuntz, 1999). More
research is needed on the eectiveness of urban games relating to students
learning outcome and attitude, as well as thematic linkages to the curriculum.
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... Since the number of educational games has increased, several studies started to analyse the effectiveness of games in transforming participation into civic learning [14,15], or examine the implementation possibilities of games in the field of urban planning [16], supporting the idea that games are potential tools for participation. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Public participation is an increasingly important means of managing landscape democracy processes; however, it continues to fall short of achieving a significant democratization of urban governance. Researchers advocate civic education and active citizenship in order to sustain democracy and suggest that meaningful participation happens when learning is strongly related to participation. More and more games are designed to be used in the field of urban planning, and current studies acknowledge games both as a framework for participation and as a tool for civic learning. Based on the empirical examination of two educational games from the practice of the Hungarian kultúrAktív Association – an NGO primarily focusing on built environment education for youth –, the authors will examine the relationship of games and the urban planning contexts in which the games were implemented to foster learning about landscape democracy. The game ‘ParticiPécs’ draws the attention to the value of collaboration in shaping urban structures and is an example of a bottom-up initiative that aims to empower youth to propose a positive change in the city of Pécs. The game ‘Urbanity’ opens a debate about urban changes and reflects critically on urban interventions from a pluralist point of view. Urbanity was introduced as a facilitation instrument to structure the dialogue between the municipality and young people, and encourage youth to participate in the ongoing community planning process of a new park in the city of Törökbálint. The comparative analysis of the two case studies focuses on the character of the urban development processes in which the games were implemented and will position game-based learning in urban planning practices. The analysis pinpoints that the game-based learning could be implemented in both bottomup and top-down approaches; highlights that the learning goal of the game must be harmonized with the goal and phase of the participation process. And finally, the authors argue that the development of universal design principles is key to uphold game-based participatory procedures.
Play and games, playfulness and gamefulness pervaded every aspect of our lives, transforming the way we want to participate and get engaged. The trend has also affected participatory planning and design, leading to a thriving practice of game design that aims to bring people—citizens and non-citizens, stakeholders and decision-makers—together to work out urban issues. What is missing, however, is a comprehensive picture of how play and games can blend with and enrich participatory processes. A further limitation is that current practice focuses almost exclusively on the urban environment and participation in planning and design.By establishing the concept of Participatory Landscape Processes my goal is to see what is beyond the participatory urban planning game practice. The new term reinterprets participation: on the one hand, it relates participation to the more inclusive concept of the landscape; and on the other hand, it adds policy-making, management and protection to the list of participation opportunities. Observing the play and game practice from this meta-perspective, our last challenge is to break out from the game practice. For this, I adopt the conceptual map of the applied games and play practice of Deterding (2016), that treats the phenomena of play and games equally important. By employing the terminology defined by Deterding et al. (2011) and Walz and Deterding (2014) to the context of Participatory Landscape Processes, the result is the Play/Game Compass to Participatory Landscape Processes that shows how ‘serious games’, ‘serious toys’ could be used in participatory processes or how ‘playful design’, and ‘gameful design’ can turn participation into a play-like and game-like experience. Thus, the Play/Game Compass to Participatory Landscape Processes is a comprehensive framework for designers of participatory processes who are looking for opportunities to combine participation and the play and game practice, and want to learn inspiring examples of this.KeywordsParticipatory Landscape ProcessesPlay/Game CompassPlayful designGameful designSerious gamesSerious toysDeterding
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Researchers have lauded games for their ability to promote situated activity, problem solving, and collaboration. Unfortunately, the characteristics of games vary widely (e.g., content, graphics, technological affordances). Some games constrain player’s experience to a left to right narrative experience (e.g., Mario Brothers) while others immerse the user in a 3D environment with thousands of peers (e.g., EverQuest). Each game is developed using different paradigms, tools, and underlying models; each provides distinct opportunities for learning. However, decades of research has documented that learning benefits are best achieved when we design technology to be closely integrated with objectives for learning and student and teacher interactions. It follows that effective assessment practices must take pedagogical objectives, environment characteristics, and learning affordances into account. As a result, this chapter examines three separate games, educational activities associated with those games, and the distinct assessment approaches involved. Informed by a learning sciences framework and Schrader’s (AACE J 16(4):457–475, 2008) model of technology and learning, we examine assessment of knowledge and skill acquisition as a result of learning from game content in BrainAge2, performance assessment and learning with SPORE, and direct observation assessment strategies when exploring the cognitive and behavioral interactions situated in the World of Warcraft. In each example, we outline the salient properties of these games, the pedagogical implications for learning, and the assessment philosophies and practices they imply.
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Video games allow complex systems modelling, revealing retroaction loops, replicating self-organization and the emergence of hierarchical organization, functional differentiation and social segregation through multi-level interactions. Recent trends focus on improving modelling tools’ graphic quality and interface attractiveness and on using video games to facilitate urban studies teaching and research. This apparent convergence between simulation and video games is addressed through a selection of strategy and city builder video games. Comparisons reveal that simulations and video games point to similar results:, they both allow the simulation of complex urban processes, like hierarchical urban networks or urban segregation. Games even seem to allow going one step further, being often more comprehensive simulations. However, the main limitation of video games emerges from their didactic power: video games and simulation software implement rules and models in almost opposite means. Games induce players to learn the model but not to challenge or to produce new knowledge.
Within the field of educational research, there are several methods, approaches, and concerns a potential researcher must be made aware of. This chapter serves as an introduction to the process of educational research, and as such, is intended for novice researchers seeking to gain an overview of the process of envisioning, designing, and carrying out a successful research project. Further, this chapter addresses the kinds of research that are possible within the academic field, some of the ethical and practical considerations involved in human subject research, and best methodological practices. Four major methods of research are discussed: qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, and action research. Each method is provided with information on the subtypes of research within each area, appropriate methods of data collection and analysis, and acceptable formats for reporting results for each methodological type.