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Game Talk: SimCity BuildIt and Urban Management Lessons

So, SimCity BuildIt has been around since 2014, but I just recently started playing it (because my Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes crashed for a week due to an update), and I’ve been wanting to post some thoughts about the gameplay, because there are just so many urban planning lessons one can learn in playing the game.


When you play the game, you become the mayor of your own city. Mayors are, in essence, the urban managers of localities, so it’s up to you to decide on major urban issues: Your city framework (street patterns), locating buildings (this reflects zoning), and prioritizing investments (implementation using available budgets). Your Simoleons (citizens)  look up to you as a mayor.

People before buildings and cars — a very basic lesson in urban management.


There are quite few lessons that we get from the game, and all of them are relevant in urban planning. I intended to just write them here as part of the blog post, but they ended up as a published article in the Inquirer.  (Click here to read the full writeup.)


But I’d still like to put in some screenshots of what the game offers:

happiness and taxes
If people come first in city management, their happiness is what will make things work out. This echoes Charles Montgomery’s construct in The Happy City. Tax rates are correlated with happiness levels, while the game provides incentives for you to build better facilities and infrastructure.
land values
After placement of buildings, parks, and basic services, the game provides an assessment of land value and the wealth forecast for residential buildings.
Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 10.07.36 AM
Investing in utilities such as power and water early on in the game removes the worry of possible power shortages and sanitation problems in residential buildings. Other basic services include sewage and garbage collection. What’s neat is that the game also teaches you that investing in non-pollutive facilities (solar farms) is better than just buying coal plants and open garbage dumps.
parks and basic services
Adding more parks into the landscape attracts more people into your city. At the same time, you have to make sure that services cover your constituents, so hospitals and police stations should be located strategically, to provide the biggest coverage.
beach tourism
Tourism, in a way, also plays a part in the game because of the beachfront developments. Putting in a rowing centre, a lighthouse, and lifeguards encourage residents to go to the beach, and also attract more people into the city.
Disasters in the game result from the experiments of a mad scientist, Dr. Vu, so aside from earthquakes, you get alien invasions, meteor showers, and giant robots. But there’s a still a part of DRRM in the game, because difficult rebuilding situations teach you to prepare and stockpile items.
Urbanization is a given in the game, and with it comes more buildings and the need for better roads. Citizens tell you when traffic piles up, and you address it by improving and upgrading roads. You can’t leave this for granted, because eventually, residents will abandon the buildings.
citizen sentiments
Citizens express their opinions and sentiments–both negative and positive–in thought bubbles, which lets you know how to better manage the city. Sims show appreciation for  better facilities and services, and disgust at pollution, traffic, and the lack of education, among others.

So there we have it, if you want to learn about basics of urban management, SimCity BuildIt would be a good way to get started.


1 comment on “Game Talk: SimCity BuildIt and Urban Management Lessons

  1. Another interesting game very similar to this is the Cities Skylines, developed by the Swedish gaming company, Colossal Order.


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