Block'hood

G4C 2016 awards finalist: Plethora Project

Plethora Project is the creator of Block’hood, a Games for Change 2016 awards finalist for Best Gameplay.

Company name: Plethora Project

Website: www.plethora-project.com

Twitter: @jomasan, @makinodagen

Short bio: Jose Sanchez is an architect and game developer based in Los Angeles. He is the creator of Block’hood, a city-building simulator developed around the ideas of ecology and entropy. He is also the co-director of Bloom Games and the director of the Plethora Project, a research and learning project investing in the future of online open-source knowledge.

He has taught and guest lectured in several renowned institutions, including the Architectural Association in London, the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, ETH Zurich, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure D’Architecture in Paris. Today, he is an Assistant Professor at USC School of Architecture in Los Angeles. His research “Gamescapes” explores generative interfaces in the form of video games, speculating in modes of intelligence augmentation, combinatorics, and open systems as a design medium.

Games at the festival: Block’hood—a neighborhood-building sandbox game—presents an ecological take on city planning. Celebrating the diversity of cities, Block’hood invites a player into the narrative that resources carry in their source and usage. By understanding resources dependencies, Block’hood generates ecological awareness and empathy for the neighborhoods we live in.

Platforms: PC, Mac

Grades: High school and up

Education value: The mechanics of Block’hood are simple and logical, but they describe a very complex system: the cities we live in. The game places in contrast the will of creating a beautiful neighborhood with the ecological impact and requirements that such vision implies. This is where the game becomes a puzzle to discover creative ways to optimize resources and patterns that allow enough production to enjoy creative freedom.

The game also offers different challenges where only a subset of blocks are available. The challenge also requests the player to produce a specific amount of resources while fulfilling other constraints. This scenarios are very powerful to communicate and develop a conversation around the issues of a given problem, such as water.

At its core, Block’hood is a reflection of the resources and exchange rate of cities resources. Some very material, like water, others more abstract like culture or social capital. The game offers a way produce and exchange this resources as city currencies, reflecting on the ratios and production chains necessary to produce a given resource out of scarcity.

The problems of scarcity are tackled precisely to seek abundance, hoping that thousands of players will find creative ways to optimize and improve the patterns of the cities we live in. Block’hood in this sense, becomes a tool of participatory urbanism where every player has a voice and the means to propose alternative paths for our city development.

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