Designing Buffalo of the future


News Services Staff

HUNDREDS OF UB undergraduate students, like thousands of computer-lovers ages 10-80, spend study breaks playing "SimCity," one of the world's most popular computer simulation games.

Players design, construct, knock down and reconstruct cities from the sewer lines up-housing and office space, highways and airports, parkways, schools, police and fire stations, recreation areas, hotels and parking lots, cathedrals and county-court buildings-and all along the way, the computer program assesses the impact of various planning activities on employment, municipal-bond rating, population demographics, education level, crime, housing stock, etc.

Tear down slums? Where do residents move? Build a marina? Raise taxes? (The populist computer cries "Boo!") Lower taxes? (It yells, "Yea!") How about a mall on Delaware Avenue or ANOTHER stadium-on Lincoln Parkway?

Graduate planning students in the UB School of Architecture and Planning, working under the direction of G. William Page, professor and chair of the Department of Planning, have designed an animated SimCity 2000 computer model of the City of Buffalo as it looks in 1996.

Using that model, the school will sponsor a university-wide SimCity computer game contest on Friday, March 8, in which players will make decisions about what they want in a Buffalo of the future. It will be held from 1-8 p.m. in 238 Hayes Hall on the UB South Campus.

The SimCity 2000 software then will create the computer simulation of what Buffalo will become, based on the decisions made by each player. The software will project not only how the city will look, but what changes will cost, its pollution level, its credit rating and how the "new" city will be able to satisfy demand for safe streets, high employment and good education.

Each contestant's SimCity 2000 version of future Buffalo will be judged by Kevin Greiner, City of Buffalo director of planning, based on the following criteria:

1. Highest education rating

2. Lowest pollution rating

3. Lowest crime rate

4. Lowest unemployment rate

5. Best loan rating for municipal borrowing

The games will take place from 1-8 p.m. on March 8 in 238 Hayes Hall. The competition is open to all UB undergraduate students, regardless of major, individual competitors only (no teams). Each contestant will have 45 minutes of play using single-entrance only, standard SimCity 2000 rules-no shortcut keys allowed. Advanced registration is recommended in person in 116 Hayes Hall. Walk-in registration will be permitted on the next available computer, space permitting. Demonstrations and brief classroom instruction will be provided for beginners. An actual game-in-progress will be continuously projected onto a large screen so that viewers can see how it's being played.

Winners will receive prizes of gift certificates valued from $25 to $100.

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