top of page
  • Writer's pictureKevin Corte

"City-Builder" Games Already Figured This Out

An entire generation of Urban Planners grew up on the SimCity franchise. The next-gen "city-builder", Cities Skylines II, is so immersive and detailed that it may do a better job visualizing and presenting data than we do as planners IRL.

The "Info Viewer" has been a key component of pretty much all strategy games. SimCity, and now Cities Skylines II (CS2) are no exceptions. The images below are from cities I've built in these games...over a period of time that does not need to be disclosed.


SimCity 4

A neighborhood level overview of traffic with color coded intersections for different Level of Service (LOS)

A neighborhood level overview of schools with primary, intermediate and high schools highlighted.

Trips in and out of a particular building, their paths and modal split highlighted.


Cities: Skylines 2

The latest and greatest in City-Building games blurs the line between real world renderings and in-game simulation.

Photorealistic views in-game bring the simulated city to life!

Like its predecessors, CS2 challenges players to create a city that provides services to simulated citizens (Sims) while balancing a budget. Above, schools and medical facilities are highlighted, with their "catchment areas" highlighted and their capacity meters displayed.

The infoviews in CS2 can be incredibly granular, showing the number (and composition!) of households in new buildings. The simulated residents 563 Dale Street are wealthy compared to their neighbors (new build) but seem to lack access to primary schools. We also can see the age distribution of the residents and see that the Projected Development would have fewer children and seniors that the area average indicating a greater need for active open space.


The Virtual Environmental Report & Data Explorer (VERDE)

As you've probably guessed by now, I'm trying to point out how similar this is to the data presented in Environmental Assessment/Impact Statements. There have been so many great new data visualization tools created by city government (very non-exhaustive list below), that take us most of the way to a real life "infoview" for NYC. There might be a value in getting this information in one place.

I also believe that there is a clear value in changing how we present the information contained within an EAS/EIS to a more visual medium. A "virtual EAS/EIS tool" could present an open space analysis of proposed project not as a narrative but rather as an interactive map that electeds, residents, and other stakeholders could engage with.

So far, I've just come up with the name (free for the taking)! I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts about what this future, video game inspired "Virtual EAS/EIS" could look like in the comments.



Capital Planning

NYC Parks


Zoning and Land Use

27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page