Block’Hood: Can a Video Game Change How We Design a City?

Releasing tomorrow as an early access title on Steam is Block’hood,  an isometric neighborhood-building simulator. The game gives players more than 80 types of blocks to create unique and ecological neighborhoods and promotes players to find the optimum solution to creating cost efficient, sustainable communities.

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“Block”, the project’s first incarnation, was developed inside The University of Southern California’s School of Architecture as a open-source game that thought to plan the Los Angeles of tomorrow. Now, as Block’Hood, the game is open to the public and  has expanded its reach to designing the communities of tomorrow using cost efficient and resource smart practices. The game offers various ways of play including a “research mode”, a mode that requires players to play with real world values in mind, and a challenge mode that gives player specific scenarios and resource allocation to solve a building dilemma. With a message of conservation and  forethought towards building communities, resources management in the game is key to building a healthy city, for cities and buildings that don’t receive proper resource allocation and design will begin to decay and crumble.

The game will also be a tool of research, as the developers will share player creation and findings with academic communities and publications to further develop a better understanding towards how we can create better communities. With Block’hood being used as a tool for the academic community to use and discuss, the game has the potential to be much more than just a simulator.

This probably sounds like a advertisement for a game that isn’t even out. I haven’t had the chance to give it a try, but it sounds like a unique tool for those who are interested in architecture and community planning. Video games have developed to a point in which they have the potential to serve similar practical implementations in specific industry as more specialized complex programs. I’m not suggesting games like Block’hood replace programs like AutoCad or any advanced programs, but it’s great to see video games being developed to give the general public a taste of what goes into an industry they may not be apart of. It sounds trivial, but the designers and creators of the communities of tomorrow are the gamers building vast worlds in games like Minecraft. If a game can harness that curiosity and give the player the educational tools to make smart and practical decisions, then our future may be all the more brighter for it.  Even for those of us who won’t be the next generation of designers or architects, games like Block’Hood promote a better understanding of how we as a community use valuable resources and the cost our creations take on our environment and homes.

For us sociologist, we can observe Block’hood as another facet of society that video games have built their way into. This augmentation of society through video games is what is at the heart of the sociology of video games, as the more ingrained the medium becomes in our society the more we need to evaluate video games as a social institution. How we use video games and let them evoke change in our society has remained to be seen it is full extent, but games like Block’Hood point towards the medium being used for the betterment of society.

At the very least, the game looks like a fun lego-like creator for adults…So it has that going for it.

You can read a piece about Block’hood’s development from an academic tool to video game here!