This year’s ACT conference featured a creative take on the urban planning arena; gamifying the professional experiences of those involved with building cities and making them work. Co-creators Monica and Lisbeth Tibbits-Nutt workshopped the 3rd version of their game, Master Plan on the last day of the 2016 International Conference in Portland, Oregon. Master Plan simulates urban growth scenarios from the perspective of diverse professional characters all on a Lego platform. The collaborative idea grew out of a shared love of Legos and the realization that sometimes, a lack of mutual understanding from one specialization to another can cause a break down in cooperation and subsequently the advancement of projects.
Master Plan moves players beyond their own professional expertise with the goal of empathizing with and understand the factors that shape decisions made by people with other professional backgrounds. The game has been well received by multiple test-groups and the Tibbits-Nutt team plan to keep tweaking their design moving forward. The simulation as it currently exists is very basic in terms of planning features. At the moment, the game is focused on building a community from the ground up. The goal for future versions is to have a preset model of a city and building upon the parameters already put in place.
Players have been helpful in their feedback of Master Plan, asking for more robust abilities like adding public transit hubs, designating buildings as multi-use, etc. Monica and Lisbeth see their game succeeding when it appeals to both planning professionals as well as those not involved in the planning world. In addition, they envision Master Plan as one additional tool used by planners to better engage stakeholders who might not have had a voice in the planning process.
Monica is the Executive Director of the 128 Business Council, a TMA operating in the Route 128 Corridor in Massachusetts. She also sits on the MassDOT Board of Directors, as well as the Fiscal Management and Control Board of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) —which oversees the management and operations of the MBTA for the next 3-5 years. Lisbeth is a Harvard University doctoral student specialized in medieval Arabic-language intellectual history. She enjoys design work and has incorporated gaming and design into other workplace situations. Both women thoroughly enjoy gaming and actively seek out ways to introduce “toys” into “adult” life as a means to expand the ways we perceive our world.