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City games

The notion City Game refers to a set of experiments designed to explore and illustrate the
dynamics of cities as complex, cognitive, self-organizing systems (Portugali 1996). A city
game can be seen as a group-dynamics involving twenty to seventy participants whose aim
is to build a city on a floor representing the site for a new city. Each player is given a 1:100
mock-up of a building and is asked to place it in the virtual city on the floor, in what the
player considers to be the best location for that building. In a typical game, the players
observe the city as it develops, and in the process also learn the spontaneously emerging
order on the ground. It is common in such games that, after a few initial iterations, an
observable urban order emerges. The participants internalize this emerging order and tend
to locate their buildings in line with it. In most city games conducted so far, the only rule of
the game was that when placing their buildings the participants were not allowed to block
other buildings’ entrances. As can be seen in the two games below, the city games exhibit a
whole set of properties including a sequential interplay between internal and external
representations (in the players minds), the emergence of a collective complex city as an
artifact, and a typical synergetic process of self-organization. Needless to say, the city game
is just an illustration of the dynamics of cities as complex self-organizing systems.

City game 1

City game 2


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