Planning Procrastigaming

It’s mid-semester and assignments are piling up. Despite our best organizational tendencies, we planning students are only human. At some point in the work laden weeks, we choose Netflix over note-taking, PlayStation over policy briefs, or relaxation over research.

The good news? There are plenty of procrastigaming options that can satisfy both your planning preferences and study break desires.

The better news? As future planners, we can learn from games like these; they can serve as an entry-point for important dialogues, engage and educate planners and non-planners alike, and breathe humor into a complex field.

Read on for a run-down of the top picks.

The layout of Mini Metro. Photo credit: Waypoint

1. Mini Metro, for the transportation lover.

The mission: Connect a progressively increasing number of metro stations with metro lines, distribute extra carriages and locomotives, and build bridges to best facilitate rider movement throughout the network.

The development: Incepted by brothers Peter and Robert Curry, Mini Metro was not developed with rail development accuracy in mind. However, when transportation planners assessed this popular game, they were generally impressed with the way this simple game exhibits many of the realities of rail expansion.

2. Blocks and Lots, for the zoning fanatic.

The mission: Zone the neighborhood of Solano Heights to meet the requirements of each challenge – tied to the preferences town’s six key stakeholders: the developer, the factory owner, the university president, the conservationist, the homeowner, and the renter.

The development: Blocks and Lots was born out of a collaboration between Esperanza Community Housing Corporation based in Los Angeles, Rosten Woo, Dr. Pop, and Jared Sains. It was developed with the purpose of educating non-planners about how planning processes directly impact day-to-day life.

3. Inside the Rent, for the housing enthusiast.

The mission: Build rental housing in a New York Borough and price your building’s rent. But be sure that rent will cover your costs!

The development: Inside the Rent was developed by the non-profit organization Citizens Housing Planning Council of New York City with the purpose of educating and explaining to New Yorkers why rental prices in their city are so expensive.

4. Cities: Skylines, for the comprehensive plan connoisseur.

The mission: Unleash your imagination to design a city from scratch and act as the mayor to balance all of your city’s needs – utilities, economy, education, transit system, and workforce.

The development: Released in 2015 by the creators of the Cities in Motion franchise, Cities: Skylines is the contemporary version of the classic city simulation, allowing for immense user creativity to develop the “cities of tomorrow.”

5. PaperBoy, for the skeptical suburbanite.

The mission: Navigate the sprawled suburban jungle to deliver newspapers to your subscribers. Watch out for other bikers, skateboarders, angry cats, pedestrians, and other neighborhood hazards!

The development: Paperboy was developed in 1984 by Atari Games. Though not designed with planners in mind (or with a greater purpose of any sort, for that matter), its road cyclist perspective provides a street-view of suburbanized space, against a backdrop of classic 80s graphics and a soundtrack to match.

About the Author: Margaret Keener is a first-year masters student in the Department of City and Regional Planning, focusing on land use and environmental planning. She is particularly interested in natural hazards, resilience, and climate change adaptation. Outside of class, Margaret enjoys listening to podcasts while running, playing outdoor team sports, and exploring new places on foot. Prior to UNC, Margaret worked as a graphic designer for ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.