City game with Urban Design Collective

On April 20 2014, we played the city game with participants from Urban Design Collective, Chennai. It is a non-profit organization that works as a collaborative platform for professionals from the fields of architecture, urban design/ planning to promote liveable and sustainable cities through community engagement.

We began by informing the players about the game, game rules and asked them to build the city in turns by placing blocks that were abstract representation of various elements of a city. Some of the modifications we introduced in the game play were:


  • Role play: We asked the players to choose the undisclosed roles in a random fashion. The roles used were governors/administrators, builders and inhabitants.

  • Endorsement cards: Players were given 20 endorsement cards at the beginning of the game. After each round, players could endorse the actions of other players by giving away one or more endorsement cards they possessed. However, players can’t be part of the city building process if they run out of the endorsement cards.

Along with the core objective of eliciting players’ preferences, and their perception of a city in a bottom up manner, we wanted to observe and document the preferences and decisions of players that got attention of other players. In order to meet this objective, we introduced the endorsement cards.

Artefacts representing green bodies and lakes were spread across the area to build the city.


After round 1, players discussed if they should lay the roads first and then place the facilities in the city or vice versa. At the end of 4th round in the game, we observed that the players seemed to ignore their roles. The city had bus terminals, restaurants, play grounds, housing, sewage treatment, university, zoo, airport, urban farm, planetarium, public library, solar farm, cycle trek, high-way, petrol-pumps, recycling centre, theatre, food processing & cold storage, railway, assembly and a stock exchange.


It was interesting to observe the importance given to connectivity and green layouts in the city that was built. Most of the roads laid were followed by green stretches along them. Through out the game session, we observed active discussions and debates, which we could observe in few of the game sessions we had conducted so far. The discussions were focused on location of the blocks, connectivity to them from other parts, and greenery in the city.


Facilities such as sewage treatment plant, water front, green belt, solar farm, and public library received endorsements from all the players. Players described the city as a small city with global aspirations and identified that it has no slums.

During the debrief, we discussed with the players about the usefulness of such games in encouraging participation, and eliciting an individuals’ views, biasses and requirements.


Here is a snapshot of the city at various stages of the game –


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