Why SimCity 4 Should Be A Required Planning Course

The Fate of All Who Follow Their Real Estate Dreams

Technology is commonplace is everyday life, and is quickly becoming mainstream in eduction- even for small children. So why add a decade-old video game to the ever-expanding educational software for college students? It’s a sandbox.

I’m in elementary school- about 3rd grade- and in a club that boasts dry vanilla sandwich cookies, awkward kids, huge blinking black boxes with whirring fans that largely from my perspective are simply sources of heat in the winter and dust bunnies, but most importantly: The Oregon Trail. This was meant to be a teaching tool created in 1971 to help kids make rational decisions about the world around them and making tough decisions about bailing out rations so you can cross a river or help your donkey schlep all your crap up the Rockies. Largely, though, it was just impossible and nobody actually made it to Oregon. So really it could have been titled, “Death Trail,” and nobody I know would’ve complained.

Now, Minecraft is the teaching tool of choice among nerdy teachers of all ages. If you prefer listening and watching and interviews, click here for a ‘Nerd Alert’ interview with Joel Levin AKA The Best Teacher Ever. If you prefer reading, click here for an article by arc technica covering the same with a different angle because getting your news/information from one source is . He also refers to Google Earth as a geography teaching tool. It’s almost painfully obvious. Why are most teachers’ heads in the sand about technology in everyday life?? Mostly because they’re part of gross public school unions that keep all the useless, old, naggy, hateful teachers in work and kick out all the excellent, fresh, new minds of young, inspiring teachers… but that’s a whole other blog.

BONUS: Portal used to teach science.

So why not let SimCity 4 work the same way, but for specific planning goals? It’s a place to make mistakes, try out ideas, and see what works. Even if the simulation is fictional and slightly skewed, it forces the player to maintain balance of a multitude of variants.

For example, if I were the course creator I would put together something like this:

Week 1: Press Start
Figure out how the game works, its flaws, its tricks; how taxes affect growth; and meet those flappy 2D talking heads who give you ‘advice.’

Week 2: Growth
Any kind of growth! Gross growth, smart growth, suburbs, dense cities; liberate the farmland and make it work- while sustaining profitability- for 20,000 people.

Week 3: Transportation Networking
Pick your poison: cheap to build but expensive to maintain bus lines, expensive to build but cheap to maintain, ferries or bridges to transport over water? You decide, and you live with that decision. After the initial mode of alternative transportation is set into place, add more variety and see what happens. Why do people choose the modes they choose? How do they possibly feel about their taxes going up because of this? Are you still profitable?

Week 4: Class
The goal here is to attract mostly upper- to middle-class residents. What attracts them? Repulses them? How does this affect crime rate? Why? Are your taxes going up? Are you still profitable?

Week 5: Education and Parks Systems
This week’s first goal is to build a University (an achievement piece in the game for sustaining an excellent public education system for all ages through multiple means.) What has happened to the area you chose to build the University? Why? The second goal is to build a varied parks system, under the teacher’s discretion. How does this affect the citizens? How does this affect your businesses? Are you still profitable?

Week 6: Walkability
This week’s goal is to make the most walkable city possible with at least 30,000 residents- starting all over again. How do you compare to your classmates? Are you profitable? Moreso than before?

Week 7: Collaborate
With at least one other person, make the most well-rounded city through dignified meetings. What different views of yours clashed? How do you think your city does for its citizens compared to your personal city design? To your partner(s)?

Week 8:  Final Begins
Make the most well-rounded, most populous, most efficient city you can within the time limit of two weeks. While still maintaining profitability.

…But that’s just off the top of my head.


About Aascot Holt

Staff News Writer for the Easterner. Urban and Regional Planning Major. Senior. Has fingers in all proverbial pies.

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