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American Society of Landscape Architects


September 2004 Issue

Simulating Alternatives
Integrating simulation games into landscape architecture.

By James L. Sipes, ASLA

Simulating Alternatives Katherine Skurr, Victoria University of Wellington

Landscape architects have fully embraced digital technology to draw site plans, produce construction drawings, and write documents. In the past couple of years we have started using geographic information system (GIS) programs for spatial analysis. Perhaps it is time to add simulation (sim) games to our palette, too.

A sim game is a copy of reality, but reality is a flexible concept in the digital world. Sim games are designed to put you, the viewer, in a scenario where your decisions and actions have consequences. Some sim games strive for a high level of realism, while others focus on fantasy worlds. One of the most popular sim games—The Sims, which allows you to interact with virtual people in their day-to-day lives—may not have any potential for landscape architects, but a number of sim games do.

Not many landscape architecture firms are using games as a part of their day-to-day practice, however, and it is probably safe to say that most landscape architects don't have an X-Box, GameCube, or PlayStation 2 next to their computers and drafting arms. But perhaps that may change if we look at how games can enhance the design process.

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