Why I Use #CitiesSkylines in my Urban Geography Posts?

Pictures say a thousand words


Two recent posts I did managed to flame some controversy. Nothing unusual as from time to time the blog does that in order to give the institutions a boot up the backside (also a reason why the blog started when it did).

However, it was two recent posts on behaviour and satire that seems to have stoked quite a bit of controversy.

My first post was on Urban Geography as an expression of behaviour (Urban Geography: The Ultimate Expression in Inter Regional Spatial Planning, Developments and Behaviours) and this came about after a series of accidents (two fatal) on Auckland’s roads and how we have a problem with engineering, design and planning. The controversy came about over the name Urban Geography and what it does.


I am an Urban Geographer not a Planner nor Urban Designer. So in my line of work I study the spatial developments of Cities, their variations and then will set out on high level exercises mapping out the first steps towards some macro-level spatial planning and possibly design. Where the controversy came about with confusion of the term Urban Geography and where it sat with Planners and Urban Designers. It was quickly cleared up and things are trucking along well again. But it can show communication is key especially as New Zealand goes through fundamental shifts in its Urban Geography, Planning, Urban Design and Transport.


Path with urban development


The second controversy was more interesting although I should have expected it after my work on the two National Science Challenges on Housing, and Decision Making towards Intensification. Long story short the first Science Challenge looked at critiques of the Planning System in New Zealand in which the secondary data (Primary Data is being processed at the moment) highlighted flaws in our legislation, our Planning Authorities and the profession itself (ask any member of the public what a Planner is or how they feel about Planning and a negative response often crops up).  the second Science Challenge looked at Decision Making that promotes or inhibits the delivery of intensification and again negative responses could have been invoked.

This does not mean in any way what the profession does is bad it is often either communicated badly or elected representatives use the profession as whipping posts (the Unitary Plan was a clear example of both).


So along I come in posting a piece of satire on what Cities Skylines player (or what City Builder) are you. Here is the video and pardon the language:

And here is the post I wrote on it: What Type of City Builder Are You #CitiesSkylines – An Interesting Satire Piece that Makes Us Confront Our Bias


The video is pure satire and I still get a good laugh out of it because I know which builder I am (the second one) and I know both the bias and challenges of my preference of play. In other words I can laugh at myself (while learning from my previous experiences).

I showed the satire piece to non planners and they got a good chuckle as well as understanding the concepts of the four types of play (and consequences). Let the profession see it and I get curt remarks mainly on why do I use Cities Skylines?


That is I can write a 4,500 word Urban Geography post but then I go “ruin it” with Cities Skylines pictures.


Urban Geography, Urban Planning, Urban Design and Engineering – all in action in Cities Skylines


This disappointed me more than anything else especially when gamification (the use of digital simulators) has been used since the Sim City days. Sim City 4 was taught in schools and studied in universities in the early 21st Century teaching the basic concepts of Urban Geography and what could be done with cities (including disasters). Cities Skylines took that mantle from 2015 and is used as Sim City 4 was in simulating different Urban Geographies or even different Urban Design ideas for a district renewal: #CitiesSkylines Helping Building Better Cities Today


I have used Cities Skylines more than once to help explain Urban Geography concepts:

Urban Design, Urban geography and Green utility vs the City Budget. A #CitiesSkylines Lesson

#CitiesSkylines Urban Regeneration Project Offers Lessons for Auckland

Urban Design: Form and Function or Aesthetics? #CitiesSkylines Assists


So why use it?

  1. Pictures are worth a thousand words
  2. I can simulate situations faster than I can in real life
  3. Offer different outcomes (like Green Utility)
  4. I am telling a story much as Auckland tells a story
  5. Because while the blog is read by the institutes I also communicate a lot other people and Cities Skylines can help explain concepts rather than get caught in planning jargon
  6. The game evolves much as Auckland evolves


As I mentioned earlier and as mentioned in #CitiesSkylines Helping Building Better Cities Today digital urban simulators are being used more in the US and especially Europe to both simulate ideas before applying to them to real life environments or communicate ideas to those not in the profession. Remember the pubic wear the consequences of decisions made by planning authorities and in New Zealand given how the Unitary Plan nearly derailed the communication honestly sucks (or we wouldn’t have these problems). I also like honing in my wares as well. For example Parklife will be out at the end of the month so I get to go test my Green Utility (Urban Design, Urban geography and Green utility vs the City Budget. A #CitiesSkylines Lesson) skills especially as my urban designs have large green spaces in the in the middle of an urban development (I detest the grid apart from when doing a transit hub or industrial complex).



Lakewood Hotel location
Manukau City Centre


So there is a choice New Zealand can face:

I use Cities Skylines – a digital urban simulator as a tool to “simulate” Urban Geography or communicate Urban Geography ideas as is increasingly done overseas in the US and EU.

New Zealand?

Also probably why I can take a chuckle at myself too – I know my strengths and challenges especially as an Altruistic leader:

My top three leadership qualities as measured by Toastmasters International
My top three leadership qualities as measured by Toastmasters International
My top three leadership qualities as measured by Toastmasters International



Oh one last thing, being an observer is absolutely fun and rewarding until you get stuck in traffic due to RUSH HOUR. ARRRRGHHH!