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Critique of the Article ‘In Praise of the Urban Sandbox’ Essay

The article, In Praise of the Urban Sandbox, tries to bring forth the significance and roles of computer games in educating, informing, and exploring planning initiatives. Using computer games to change the minds of city planners on the future state of an urban centethe r requires in-depth simulation of life.

For instance, real-life zoning and refining the traffic model to be similar to the actual transportation planning is a hectic program (Ferzoco 8). Even though the concept of gaming proves helpful in engaging planners in designing urban settings, the earlier versions of games failed to include the three-dimensional setting, which is for the real-life setup.

In SimCity, for instance, the provision to control a plot of land and even alter the terrain before including other structures and services provides insights to planners on how an urban setting ought to be to accommodate possible changes like population increase. Markedly, the belief that games provide potential opportunities for easier and joyful learning processes is doubtable since this technological application lacks the primary purpose of education, save for entertainment purposes.

The article posits that in SimCity, one can find a city, take care and maintain it using the given budget allocation (Ferzoco 9). However, parameters such as taxes and population growth are not comparable to the real-life situation since population growth rates in different parts of the world are different.

The simulation process only provides a single design process that does not apply to all urban settings. As policy makers and master planners, the need for social services like hospitala s, schools, and insurances are vital in any urban setting, and they have to put such factors into concern when implementing any design process in a city.

In designing and developing urban centers, planners intend to make citizens happy by making the city meet possible challenges that come with new developments. Paradox Games released a highly complex game, Cities in Motion, which showed fundamental requirements in the transportation sector (Ferzoco 9).

This was a major milestone considering the inability of SimCity to do the same. Nevertheless, the transportation simulation lacked real-world live settings. Therefore, the gaming does not inculcate real life aspects like shifts in economic development, global economic forces, and changes in settlement patterns. In addition, the mundane nature of these games makes it intricate to apply new designs while using the same provisions of the gaming.

The games also fail to inculcate other factors like political, financial, and technical dimensions in the business model designs. Again, these games fail to notice the relevance of time in a learning process since learning is always effective within the first two hours of meeting. As a result, some planners are still not seeing the benefits of computer games.

On the other hand, this industry surpassed the music and movie industry in 2007 in terms of profit making (Ferzoco 10). There is dire need to include these games in the learning aspects of urban planning given that the use of sandbox can aid the development of the present world.

Such games influence real works of graphic designers and planners, but have not solved fully any real problems in the city building or planning and design industry. In other online games, there are instances of creativity and role-playing in which a virtual city for development is presented forth for design.

These games give room for diversity thus showing that city simulation is a perfect fit. The presentations of a massive digital world from the games can assist planners to know how to build complex buildings that have less world complications, which inhabitants have witnessed across the world.

Additionally, the programming languages involved in developing these computer games have made it difficult for those planners without the required technical skills to develop their own designs. Modifications into these games can help communities to instill new ideas and socio-economic issues that frequently affect life in urban setups.

The success of these games has to rely on the ease at which one can learn and internalize the entire concept of the gaming, and the needs have to be at a metro scale (Ferzoco 11). At high scales, planning concepts can easily take root, thus allowing for easy dealings with infrastructural issues. These games have attempted to handle issues of urban planning, but have not succeeded in systematic development of buildings, transport networks, and communal supports.

The concept of sustainability remains a controversial topic to urban planners who apply online games in designing new and restructuring old urban centers. For instance, in real situations, there are always barriers that can block movement of different bodies, but video games believe in the absence of artificial barriers and invisible walls (Ferzoco 11). From this analogy, the idea of an open world has technical limitations that occur due to the linearity of the sandbox.

Although SimCity offers powerful problem-solving skills and learning experiences, the game fails to incorporate two players in designing a suitable environment for urban settings. The article attests that the study of the games has helped game designers in improving their understanding of ecology. Notably, the games that the article outlined do not hold up the notion of playful public involvement.

Serious games ought to use wholehearted ways to attract the interests of elderly persons in learning about the environment. This parameter needs unraveled clarification to urban planning game developers so that the entire concept supports public engagement. Ferzoco’s article does not show whether the games should present the environment as a non-georeferenced or just maps of 3D geo-referenced space.

Urban planners and citizens also have to adopt uniform understanding regarding urban planning concepts. This will assist them to understand the intended changes in the urban centers. Vivid discussions of urban planning topics among planners and game designers will improve the applicability of the produced video or computer games. In a participatory approach, urban planners should receive feedbacks from citizens so that their next moves do not conflict with the interests of the locals.

Designing an inclusive game is a tactful process that must consider the objectives of the game, its potential users, and the process of public participation that it uses. Planners have always included aesthetics in their plans for towns and cities by applying zonings to control the use of tracks of lands. Video games have proved beneficial in inculcating aspects of sustainable urban infrastructure and climatology in designing possible transit routes in any urban setting.

However, the whole concept of the sandbox has to inculcate other parameters like safety and security. For urban planners, some areas have frequent calamities like floods and extreme cold or hot temperatures; therefore, they must adopt the state of open space provision and involve game developers to inculcate such scenarios in their games. In conclusion, these games have benefits to planners by teaching them numerous abstract ideas that are crucial to better urban planning.


Ferzoco, Jeff. “In Praise of the Urban Sandbox.” The Magazine of the American Planning Association 5 Apr. 2011: 8-11. Print.

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