Gaming the Real World (2016) Movie Script

- Wow!
I know I haven't been here before,
but I kind of get the feeling that I have.
I've seen this place before.
It's mind blowing.
We're taking something in a video game
and using that to create
things in real life.
We're actually changing the world.
Remember back to when you were little
and you used to like to build things?
- Everyone knows video games
are played for fun,
but could they also be used
to change the world around us?
- Urbanization is one of
the biggest challenges
facing the world,
but it's also a great opportunity.
- This is the story of how
a group of people are trying
to use video games to fix our cities.
- Games can be used for purposes that are
far beyond what their
design was intended for.
- And the story of how the virtual world
of games is being brought into reality
to transform the societies we live in.
- You can take an actual societal problem
and try to tackle it
through the medium of games.
- The connection between a game
and reality is getting closer and closer.
- Hello, London.
- For the first time in history,
more people live in cities
than in the rural world.
By 2050, over one third of people
on Earth will live in barrios,
favelas, shanty towns and slums.
Getting community members,
particularly young people,
engaged in planning and
talking about their cities
is thought to be the best way
of creating sustainable
urban environments.
But in many societies,
this has proved easier said than done.
Our story starts back in 2011,
in Sweden, with an 11-year-old gamer.
What it was was Minecraft,
a game created in 2009
by a guy called Markus Persson,
also known as Notch.
The game gives players
the freedom to build whatever they want
out of basic building blocks.
Now run by the Swedish company Mojang,
it's become the world's
most popular PC game,
with a huge world wide community
of millions of players.
But could using a game to help people
change their own
neighborhoods really work?
For hardcore gamers
and childhood friends David and Emil,
the project came out of the blue.
- The whole thing started out
when I was on a train to Stockholm
and I was browsing Twitter as usual
and I found this tweet
from the CEO of Mojang
who said they had an
interesting project using
Minecraft as a tool in city planning.
That's how we, both of us,
were involved in this project.
Neither I or Emil have any
formal game development education
or anything surrounding gaming at all.
We're just gamers who've been involved
in a really interesting project.
- Five, four
- Three, two, one.
- Game over.
- Trial projects were organized
in suburbs around Stockholm
to see if the idea could work.
- We had three pilot projects
Fiskstra, Drottninghg and Hovsj.
Me and Emil built the city,
the buildings exactly
like they look today,
the streets exactly like it looks today,
in the Minecraft model.
And we had a workshop
where people that live
in these areas together
with the community,
changes these models as they
want it to be in the future.
Minecraft is like digital Lego.
You can't simulate things,
you can only visualize things.
So, it's easy to learn,
easy to understand,
and it's not too complicated
for the participants or
for the people involved
with planning the city.
- The project's success
opened people's eyes to the potential
of using games to attract
youth to urban issues.
The UN quickly saw
the potential of the idea
and a partnership with Mojang,
the company behind Minecraft,
was formed.
- Youths are very seldom involved
in the processes of planning
and talking about their cities.
We came to know about some trial
projects that had been done in Sweden
and those trial projects
had been very successful.
So, we thought that maybe that can
be brought to other parts of the world.
- Vu Bui and Lydia Winters
headed the team from Mojang.
- The city has been growing
at such an incredible rate
that the public spaces
started to kind of fall to the wayside,
which is what usually happens
when urban development
just kind of goes insane.
And so, now the people in the communities
are realizing no we need to
have these public spaces.
It's incredibly important
to our everyday life.
I recognize this place.
I've only seen it in the game,
but it's actually so close
to what it looks like,
except the work has been done already.
So, before it had these
sort of smaller pillars.
And then they changed it
so that it was more safe.
So that when there's festivals and things,
they don't have to worry
about anyone falling
into the pond.
- Without that community participation,
you lose that ownership,
that sense of this belongs to me,
I helped make this.
And to see people using the space
and seeing that it has
affected their lives
and made it better
was really an amazing moment.
- It always surprises me
that you can actually get
the feel of a place by being in Minecraft,
even though there's not
nearly as much detail.
In the game, when they redesigned it
and kind of made it look like this,
it actually looks very similar to this
now in real life.
- Minecraft was helping
change people's lives in the real world.
Lydia's own life has also
been transformed by Minecraft.
- It's hard for me to
put into words what's
happened in the past four years for me.
I was this scared girl
who didn't really know
what she wanted to do.
I hated traveling.
I let my anxiety take over
so many aspects of my life.
And so I had gotten my degree in teaching
and decided I didn't want to do that.
I started dabbling in photography.
I was trying anything and everything
and I got really into creating videos.
Hi, I'm Minecraft Chick and this is
my very first daily Minecraft video show.
Some friends of mine recommended
the game Minecraft.
I said I'm not a gamer,
I've never played games before.
They were like that will be even better.
Okay, so this is me starting.
I don't even know how I walk.
That's sad.
My channel became quite popular.
People thought it was funny because
I was just being silly
and kind of commenting on
not having any idea what I was doing.
I was killed.
As awful I was at playing this today,
I have to be better tomorrow, right?
And in summer of 2011,
I reached out to Mojang and just said hey,
I heard that you're coming to the US.
If you need any help with anything,
please let me know,
I'd be happy to help,
expecting kind of an email back like,
sure, you can hand out
flyers or get coffees.
And I was totally fine with that.
But it ended up that they needed someone
to help host a booth that
they were having at E3.
Hi, I'm Minecraft Chick
and today I'm going to tell you why
I'm having the best day ever!
- It's been very awesome!
- No, really, this is great!
- Notch.
This is amazingly awesome.
I get to hang out with Notch.
I'm being a stalker,
but I don't even care.
That led to them saying
yeah, we want to bring you back with us.
Are you interested in
taking a job at Mojang?
On our way to the airport.
Which of course I was.
About to go through security one in Tampa.
- Bye, bye, baby.
Have fun.
- I've never been on
an international flight before.
I was so ready to have a different life
than the one that I was leading
that I just jumped in sort of head first.
- Welcome to Stockholm.
- So today I'm going to show you
the Mojang offices.
First of all, you walk in.
Here's the hands with money.
I don't know what they represent.
And then there's the bathroom.
Yes, Minecraft blocks.
And here's the Minecraft development team.
- In 2012,
just after Lydia's arrival in Sweden,
Mojang's unlikely partnership
with the UN began.
- That was pretty much the whole
office tour.
It only takes four minutes.
- The project was called Block by Block.
- I've been involved with Block by Block
since the very beginning.
At the time, I think we were
a two and a half
or three year old company.
We were really excited
to start talking to UN Habitat.
For them to come to us and want
to do a partnership,
it was not only a big deal for us,
but a big deal for them.
- UN Habitat, the branch of
the UN that deals with cities
and sustainable urbanization,
had never done anything like this before
and it was up to new recruit
Pontus Westerberg to make it work.
- My boss Thomas Melin met
with the Mojang team,
I think back in July, 2012
or something like that.
I started on the 1st of August,
so he'd just met with them when I started.
I remember he called me into his office
and was like I had this conversation
with this gaming company.
I think this is something
that you should really try to work on.
- It's difficult to change the structure.
- So maybe this one is actually
adequate space for public space.
- At the time,
we didn't really know how to do this.
It was really learning by doing.
I'd never played Minecraft before
so I remember sitting in the office
in my first month playing
a lot of Minecraft
and kind of worrying about people walking
around behind me
and kind of going,
there's this new guy who's just playing
video games at work.
- All of a sudden, Minecraft was going
to be used to change the world
and in real life, change the space.
It wasn't just going
to happen in the game.
But we were going to work and fund
the project so that each space,
people decide how it's going to be used
and then it actually happens.
- We started off with
this project in Kibera,
one of the slums here in Nairobi.
It seemed like the logical place
to test the use of Minecraft.
- The line around the field
is really allowing a retaining wall.
- So we had an architect that
had produced two dimensional
architectural drawings
of the suggested changes
and it was quite clear
people were struggling
to understand these
architectural drawings.
- People just weren't understanding,
looking from a top-down view,
what that would actually mean
in physical space when
you're standing in it.
And we thought turn on the Minecraft.
Let's show them what it
looks like in Minecraft.
- The school entrance will be here
and we'll plant some trees and whatever.
- I remember our first
workshop that we did.
It was like a light bulb came on
for all the people in the room.
- They were able to instantly
click and understand.
You see everyone's face light up.
Oh, that pathway goes through there.
- As soon as they were able to walk around
in this three dimensional Minecraft model,
there was new energy in the room
and people really started
expressing their ideas
in a different way.
That's when I really realized that
we were really on to something.
- The idea of using a video game as a tool
for creating real world
social change wasn't new.
Emerson College's
Engagement Lab founder Eric Gordon
has been following the movement.
- In the early 2000s,
games became almost like
a possibility space.
Games were accessible on home
computers and easy enough to make.
And there was a lot of questioning
about how we can use this medium
that seemed really accessible,
really powerful,
and turn it into
a kind of instrumental tool,
where it can be applied
to particular aspects
of social change and education.
In 2004, you had the emergence of an
organization called Games for Change.
That was a moment where
serious games take on a new cache.
Where all of a sudden,
people are talking about
these serious games,
and organizations and branches
of government became really intrigued
by this possibility and thinking
maybe a game is something
that we can make.
- Entertainment in general,
movies, television, books,
have all played some kind of role
in raising awareness around issues.
But games have a very
special feature that a lot
of other popular
entertainment doesn't have.
And that really has to do with
the type of engagement
that a player has
when they are playing the game.
Unlike television or film,
which is more of a passive experience,
games take it a step further.
You actually can affect change
within the game.
You are tapping into skills and behaviors
that lend themselves well
to being part of a story,
to being part of a cause,
to potentially being part of the solution.
- In the early years of this movement,
there was a group of
games, maybe three or four,
that everybody talked about.
One of them was Darfur Is Dying.
That made a big splash
because it was distributed by MTV.
MTV put it out there,
it was very accessible,
and some people learned
about what happened
in Darfur through the game.
The other one that was very,
very known was Food Force.
- Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Thanks again for coming
at such short notice.
- It was done by the United Nations,
it was very successful.
It was played by 11 million kids.
It was all about distribution of food,
explaining to people, you
know, all the components,
but it was done in a very inspiring way.
Food Force were the superheroes that were
giving food to people in need.
- Come on, we've all got to work quickly.
We do drops like this when we
have no other way of reaching people.
- These were kind of
the fathers, you know?
- In the last ten years, however,
billions of dollars has poured
into the games industry,
leading to countless high-quality,
well produced games on the market.
Even the best serious games
have found it tough to compete.
- We're entering now the time
where people understand
that those games need
to be of high quality,
just like commercial games.
- The biggest challenge
is that so many of these games
are being made by university labs,
like ours, by small design studios.
They don't have the budget of, you know,
major games studios and triple-A titles.
One of the biggest challenges
is honestly the creation of good games.
- Creating a good game with little money
is something that architect
and educator Jose Sanchez
has been struggling with for over a year.
- This semester what we want to do is,
from the midterm on,
to really apply it to an
architectural approach.
We need to design that atrium,
really start designing how
people enter the space.
I studied architecture in Chile
and then got an offer to come and teach
and do research here.
And I took that opportunity
to focus on video games
and how video games and architecture
could become a new medium
and a new kind of research.
It's looking really good.
So let's look at the progress on Monday.
- Yeah.
- When he's not teaching,
Jose spends his spare time
developing his game Block'hood.
He hopes the game will
eventually be used as a tool
to help design and build
sustainable cities.
- Block'hood, it's a video game
where you design a neighborhood.
The game provides you with
many units that compose the city.
In that sense,
it's a very simple building game.
What's behind the scenes of the game
is a lot of data.
So, the game is calculating
ecological relations,
it's calculating
how things decay over time.
So you slowly start realizing
there is information
that is passed among units.
In order to keep your
units alive and healthy,
you need to be aware of what they need.
A tree will need water,
an apartment would need
electricity and so on.
The very first article we got,
they called it "Minecraft for real life".
What if Minecraft would
have a data of real objects?
What if a solar panel
would have the amount
of energy that a solar panel produces?
What if a wind turbine
would actually produce
that kind of energy?
And you could sense that, understand it,
and use it for designing a neighborhood.
What if everything in
that kind of game world
would actually map its
information to reality?
Then people playing, they
would be just designing
and discovering what could
be done in the world.
This is downtown L.A.
This is the kind of view that I get
every morning when I wake up.
I think the life cycle of cities
is one of the big
inspiration for the game.
In Block'hood, you're constantly
carving out and building a new city.
What would you do if
you would pick a block
and just have the chance to
create anything you want?
If you think of the problem of global
warming and ecological crises today,
I honestly believe that games as a medium
are really defining a new space
for addressing these issues
and understanding the
complexities of this problem.
It's important to know that Block'hood
is not a game that would
simulate how the city would look.
It's a diagram of how the city functions,
where players can actually interact
and crowdsource and participate
to give ideas of what should be
the future of the city.
- Jose is keen to see if other architects
think that the real
world data in his game,
combined with real-time analysis
of players' decisions,
could be an important tool
for architects and city planners.
- I haven't played games
and I'm not very interested
in playing games,
but something like this,
I think there's going to be this
repository of data that comes out of this.
It's testing the ideas
of potentially millions of users,
in a not even real-time,
like a hundred times real-time scenario.
There's no other way
to generate that data,
and I would like access to that data
to see how that can be applied
to the cities of the future,
to infrastructure of the future,
to buildings of the future.
- The game really proved to be a much more
difficult enterprise than I envisioned.
I had not thought of developing
a robust software like a game before,
and I didn't know how to do it.
For some time,
I was really kind of struggling with it.
That's the point at which
something very personal happened.
My brother passed away.
- Happy birthday to you!
- I entered a stage of pain.
I was remembering through
lots of the things that
we would do together.
I was playing video games
with him all the time.
We were always with the controllers
and we would play like, I don't know,
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles together.
We would live out our
childhood with video games.
That's the language we had.
I had a period where I was very depressed.
I dropped the game for two
months, I didn't touch it,
I was not doing anything.
At some point I thought, well,
the only thing I can really do is try
to dedicate something that I'm working on,
something that means a lot to me,
in his memory.
I basically rebuilt everything.
I had to start from scratch,
realizing that things were not working
or things had been done
in a very messy way.
It became like something that I had to do.
It was completely obsessive.
There was no other option.
I would finish this game
and I would put it in the market,
share it with the community,
because it's so meaningful for me
and it's so important
to share this project.
- Nepal, like many developing
countries around the world,
is undergoing rapid transformation
from a rural to an urban economy.
- This kind of unplanned urbanization
we see all over the developing world.
This could be the outskirts of Nairobi,
it could be the outskirts of Cairo.
- Because there's not much space in Nepal
and the houses are just
kind of being built
on top of each other,
and quite small living space,
it means that the public spaces
are even more important.
- The heart of the cities is public.
It's pavements, it's
squares, it's streets.
Without that, you don't
really have a city.
- With the work on the
first site now complete,
the Block by Block team have begun work
on a second, more ambitious project.
- The first project was
finished in about four months.
The people in the
community were so excited
they started working on another site
and wanted it to be part
of the Block by Block program.
So now there's this huge area.
Trash has just been thrown
and no one's able to use the space.
- People who live in
this area have removed
50 tons of rubbish.
This whole hillside
- Was trash.
- There's still a lot left.
They want to protect it
from encroachment.
If there's more activities
and new things being built,
it will not be taken
for private land for houses.
- Yes, thank you.
- People from different parts
of the community,
young and old,
are participating in the workshop.
- When we first started out,
we thought to engage young people mainly.
We did a few projects
and realized that
actually the older people
were also really interested
in what is this Minecraft?
Can we get involved?
And in some places they feel excluded,
so we changed the approach
from focusing mainly
on young people and
we've now started working
with all members of the community.
People who have never really been asked
about their opinion on anything.
- Talking to the women's group,
they want a safe, usable space
so that everyone in the
community can gather
and be more a part of each other's lives.
And now the workshop will decide,
what will the space be used for?
People have the whole area laid out
in a way that they can walk through
and see, oh, okay that's
where the temple is,
that's where the pond is.
Then they can go,
hey, we need a light here,
and just quickly with a couple clicks
build something that looks like a light.
- It's not about going in with your own
ideas and trying to fix people's lives.
It's about helping enable
and inspire them to do it,
and helping enable them
to use the ideas that they already have
and make it actually
happen in physical form.
- As people start building, common
themes emerge, like security, lighting,
fun areas for kids to play in,
a space for the elderly to sit.
The beauty of Block by Block
is that it actually puts
the decisions in the hands of the people.
I look forward to hopefully coming back
and seeing the park as
an amazing place with
all of these different ideas implemented.
Thank you so much for having us here.
- Back in Stockholm,
and boosted by the success
of the Block by Block project,
Jrgen started to look
for other video games
that could take this idea even further.
- A game that can take on the problems
of a modern city in all its complexity.
- Cities: Skylines is a city builder
where people can build their own cities,
and they need to deal with everything
that goes with building a city.
- You're laying down roads,
you're solving traffic solutions,
you're utilizing services
and you're keeping people happy.
- It's basically the
same thing as Minecraft
when it comes to visualization,
but it adds another layer of simulation.
It's alive.
There are citizens walking around,
there are cars driving around.
It feels like it's a real town
and it should work as a real town as well.
- When Svensk Byggtjnst approached us,
we jumped at the opportunity.
We thought it sounded like a great way
not only to enforce the fact
that games can be so much more
than just entertainment,
but also because we thought
it was a really innovative way
of trying to look at problem solving.
- When you start the game,
you just get a small plot of land
and build a city, make any kind of a city.
You get to do it just the way you like
and then the city is kind
of like a living entity.
Different things happen
based on your own decisions.
That's what the game is all about.
The thing that we learned early on
was that people love to manage things.
When you give them something of their own,
like this is your plot of land,
they will take it as their own,
they will care for it,
they want to build things.
It's something that's
really deep-set in humans,
that they want to create things,
they want to take care of things.
- We caught gamers in a time where
they realize that they want to contribute.
When you finish building a city,
this is something I made.
I made up all these solutions,
I figured out how traffic worked here.
And if I zoom out and take
a screenshot of this,
I can feel like it's like my painting.
- Like many major cities,
Stockholm is growing rapidly,
and 140,000 new homes
are planned by 2030.
Jrgen has been given the green light
to organize a planning workshop
using Cities: Skylines
to help road test the design
of a huge redevelopment project,
the Royal Seaport.
- From here?
It should be 200 meters.
- The redevelopment is one of the largest
urban development projects in Europe.
And with only a few weeks
before the workshop,
David and Emil have plenty to do.
- So what's your role in it all?
- We get maps from the city council.
With a ruler, I check
on my screen and say,
okay, this road should be 200 meters.
And then Emil draws a road 200 meters
in that direction.
And it just goes on like that.
Yeah, nice.
It's 350 meters.
- Recreating a simulation
of a real world city in a game platform
so that it can be used in a serious,
government-backed workshop
is something never tried before.
- Yeah, like that.
It was very interesting when we had our
first meeting with the
Stockholm city council.
We showed them the game
and they entered with the perception
that it could be something,
but that it would be very limited.
It will be interesting to see,
when it's all over, what they think.
- The future Royal Seaport
is currently an industrial
area near Stockholm city center.
- This area below the hill
is where our model is based.
Everything will be changed in the future.
All of these buildings will be replaced
with housing and offices.
Last time we were here,
that forest did not exist in the model.
But today it exists.
So we have the forest already.
- It all relies on the first project.
If this fails, everyone else
will become much more skeptical.
So much depends on it.
- As games become more
and more technologically advanced,
just how these games could be
used to help shape our societies
is still pretty much unexplored.
- I wrote an article for the Guardian
about the link between
video games and cities and urbanism,
and how the two are
influencing each other.
And what I learned quickly was that
it really wasn't something that
had been systematically written about much
at all in the past
which seemed astonishing
to me considering how
many simulated cities
you find in video games these days.
It was nice to break open
that kind of ground a little bit.
I think the gap between simulation
and reality is closing.
I think that's obvious in terms of
increasing complexity and plausibility
of a lot of the video games
that are being produced at the moment.
I remember playing the
first Grand Theft Auto
and the resolution wasn't that great.
It seemed amazing at the time,
but looking at it in retrospect
it seems kind of clunky.
Not just the fact that
it's now gotten bigger
but also the fact that the density
of the simulation has gotten better.
- Geez, too much more of that
and maybe I won't be dead by 35.
- Cars are moving around, expensive cars
and expensive neighborhoods.
People react to people shooting,
crowd mechanics and social mechanics
to a certain degree.
But once the story runs out,
then that's all you're left with
and there's no real human heart to it all.
That's a huge shortcoming of games
and the current ceiling against which
they're butting their heads.
And that tells you how complex cities are.
If games were to incorporate
live data from cities,
it would lend a sense of unpredictability
and randomness that's
currently very limited.
That idea to me is fascinating.
If someone were to do that,
I think it would be a way of cracking open
the hermetic box in which these
sandbox games are created.
I do think that the city sim style of game
is probably directly responsible
for a sort of uptake
of city planners and people
having a sort of exciting, empowered sense
of what putting a city together can be
and how a city should function.
Several people I spoke to
in the article said that
playing SimCity at the end of the '80s
was a real eye-opening moment for them
because it was the first time they had
this visualization of the
city as a kind of system
and an exciting one
and as one that you the
player could influence.
- It's fun.
We've agreed to build up a city.
For those cities have skylines
and boy, are they pretty.
- Entertainment related games
like SimCity and Cities: Skylines
can be beneficial in
the evolution of cities
and I think will have an influence.
The stumbling block upon which
people fall when they think
about these video games'
influence in real life
is the rules of these games,
they're there to entertain.
And fun is the priority of
these games, not education,
and education can happen on the way.
If you were to be interested
in how they modeled cities,
you'd probably learn an awful lot
about urban planning, urban zoning,
crowd mechanics, crime,
all the things that are fed into the game.
But you very much need to open the hood
and look at the engine.
You need to want to do that,
and most people just
want to drive the car.
- The makers of Cities: Skylines are also
less concerned with closing the gap
between simulations and reality,
and more focused on creating a fun ride
for their players.
- Cities: Skylines has some simplified
mechanics compared to reality.
And that's one of those problems,
that we basically as a game company
don't want to be involved in how
to actually feed accurate,
real data to the game
to get this kind of like actual research
or real results out of it.
- You see there's a big one.
There you see, that one
is completely stuck.
- The dangers of trying to use a game like
Cities: Skylines or SimCity,
to plan real cities,
are pretty obvious.
- We've had a lot of interest in it
from universities and schools,
but the simulations we use
are fairly simple.
And I think it's important
that the powers that be
that use these tools are aware of this
and have the knowledge
to tweak it and change it
to a more realistic outcome.
If you start planning cities
from Cities: Skylines,
I'm not sure you would get good cities.
It might look like it and
you might be so convinced
by the power of the simulation
that you think it's the truth,
but you really need to tweak it well
and deal with it properly for it to work.
- The gaming industry
can become sophisticated enough
that it can in fact embrace
many, many of these variables
that would be part of developing cities,
or part of cities,
but if they are just going to come to it
from an intuitive, visual perspective,
then that can be easily challenged.
We have to be careful
that it doesn't become just a game.
It is a game, but it has to be
a sophisticated game where
the things that planners and designers
consider are also sort of inclusive
in that gaming,
in that software,
in that process.
- To get around some of the
simplified mechanics of Cities: Skylines,
David and Emil have been adding
specially designed modifications, or mods,
to enhance the game's software.
- The thing about both
Minecraft and Cities: Skylines
is that they aren't
made for city planning.
So we need to find ways
to make it work for city planning,
and that way is to use mods.
Mods are add-ons
or changes in the games,
which make them more
advanced in some ways.
The interesting thing about mods
is that it isn't created
by developers themselves.
It's created by normal people.
- So basically this should be
a shorter one.
I think it's really great
that with the modding tools,
people can transform the game
to something else.
And definitely the modders
are changing the game faster
and in ways that we couldn't imagine.
- This is the train station.
There's a completely
new level of discussion
and completely new level of creativity,
because they can't only play
with the tools we give them.
They also define, like,
the playground themselves.
This is some high-level
city planning here.
- Is that correct?
- Yeah.
I'm concerned about the tutorial.
I think our tutorial sucks.
It's basically not working, so we need to
- And a lot has changed.
- Back in L.A.,
Jose's game Block'hood,
is due to be released
in two months.
On the world's biggest online
games store, Steam.
- So, the building tutorial,
- I do believe video
games will make changes
to how we think and how we see things.
Almost exactly five years ago,
there was a huge earthquake in Japan,
and it killed something
like 20,000 people.
And everything stopped.
Trains stopped, infrastructure,
water, electricity.
I mean the things that we take for granted
are actually very fragile
and probably not sustainable.
So we at that point realized,
we need to make some
changes to how we live
and how we are so dependent
on the big system.
It was a discovery that someone
is actually trying to do
this with video games.
- Today is the first public
play test of the game
and Jose and his colleague and co-designer
Gentaro are nervous.
The user response from this play test will
be crucial for the release of the game.
- I think actually we're
getting a big error.
So this is not good.
This is not supposed to happen.
We're trying to still implement a bunch
of ideas, a bunch of new things.
We're running out of time.
I wish I would have been trained
as a computer scientist sometimes.
Here we go.
- Let's do it.
Fingers crossed.
- Hey, nice to meet you.
Anybody out there?
Come in.
Thank you for guys for being here.
It's been a year since
we started this project.
It's the very first time we open it,
so we're very nervous
to see what you think,
if things work.
And hopefully what We're trying to do
is connect some of the ideas
of the game with the real world.
How do we allow this game to allow you
guys and anybody to think
of the problems of the city?
When you look at the game,
you might think,
well, this is not a real building.
This is not a real city.
How a game can actually help us
solve real-world problems?
But I honestly believe
that individuals playing games
could be empowered
to solve these problems in the future.
What I've always loved about games
is that they're not just
something you can do.
It's a complete narrative in
the sense that they take you
from not knowing anything
to explaining how variables work,
how the game works,
what are the problems you are gonna have
and how to overcome those problems.
I thought that that was the medium
that would allow anybody,
not being an architect or designer,
to start conceiving
what are the cities of tomorrow.
- One of the problems
that current cities are facing
is the fact that we are designing
in a very top-down way,
but also we're assuming that the same
scenarios that we are implying right now
are going to be good for another
20 years, 50 years, 100 years.
However, that's not the case anymore,
so platforms like this are designed
to really start to make
us think about the future,
but also have a hand in the way
that the future is constructed.
- That's cool.
Can you imagine a building like that?
- I don't know how it's working,
but it's working.
- Play is an important
part of both the artistic
process and the scientific process.
Often in science, we
have to make intuitive
leaps to make a huge leap forward.
So, the same might be true
with urban planning.
It might be that while we could run
simulations that are
very purely scientific,
the big discoveries that
we make in the future
of how best to construct human
societies in the urban environment
might be made through discoveries that
people make when they're just playing
around with the system.
- The problems associated
with increased urbanization
in places like Nairobi are plain to see.
- Nairobi, like many
other developing cities,
faces a lot of social issues
related to unsustainable urbanization.
You get a lot of unplanned, informal
settlements along the highway.
Lack of water and sanitation,
lack of public transport.
No pavements for pedestrians.
Badly maintained roads.
A large proportion of the population
live in informal settlements.
They are not formally planned
and not formally serviced
by infrastructure for water,
sanitation and electricity.
- Pontus is hopeful that a new
Block by Block project in Dandora,
one of Nairobi's poorest areas,
might be a way to get the
local community more engaged
in improving their living conditions.
- We're just now turning toward
Dandora, where we're going.
This area here, you can see the street
has very limited street lights.
It's not paved, so whenever it rains
it gets really muddy.
It's difficult to get around.
Big security issues,
particularly at night.
The project we're working on
is upgrading these
streets around the area.
Streets are a really, really
important public space.
Sometimes the most important public space.
You can see around here that there are
a lot of people out on the streets.
Children playing games and so on,
but there's a lot of rubbish.
The sewage system doesn't
work properly, there's a lot of mud.
The idea with the project
is to upgrade the street
network around this area.
- Bigger vehicles cannot access.
- Okay, so you don't want
the big bus or the lorry to come
in or anything like that, yeah?
Even a car cannot come in, or?
- No, a small car.
- Just small cars.
I love working with people in different
parts of the world,
and seeing how we can get their voices
and empower them
to have an input into
urban planning processes.
Minecraft is never going to replace
technical design tools,
but as a sketch tool,
as a communication tool,
as a community engagement tool,
it's fantastic.
People learn it really quickly
and really start visualizing their ideas
within a couple hours,
even with very limited computer knowledge
and that really builds their confidence.
- We have a school here.
- Okay.
So you want the zebra crossing to go
across the school?
- To make it more convenient for them.
- Something like 60 % of Nairobi's
population is under the age of 25.
These people really want
to see change in society
and that presents huge possibilities.
There's this idea of smart cities which
is being discussed a lot.
And very often it's perceived
as a top-down thing.
You know a company will come in
and they'll build some
kind of tech solution
that can be given to the city
and the city can use that to monitor
citizens and get all sorts of data.
A lot of the time in these discussions
the citizens, the people
are kind of forgotten.
That's really what we're
trying to do at UN Habitat,
is to find ways for citizens
to become part of this debate.
- We will start from here.
This is not only a playing ground,
but it's also a resting place.
We have land here
where we can plant some trees.
- Seeing the change in these young people,
seeing them developing
ideas with this game
and then presenting them to politicians
and civil servants is fantastic.
And I think this is kind of
where Minecraft can really work,
in changing some of the
power relationships away
from professionals to ordinary people.
- Since we started this initiative,
youths are ready to transform.
They're engaging in these activities
to transform the neighborhood.
And it doesn't end
with beautifying and cleaning the estate.
It transforms the mind,
the heart, the spaces.
We need that complete
paradigm shift in Dandora.
Change Dandora,
change Nairobi, change Kenya,
change Africa, you change
the entire world.
It all starts here.
- Oh, it's so beautiful.
It's super gorgeous.
- I just love that from here you can see
You see the entire city.
- Despite the success of several projects
in places like Nepal and Nairobi,
Vu and Lydia feel that the progress
of Block by Block has been too slow.
- Block by Block is an amazing concept,
but it's how do we actually
take it around the world
so that it's not in small pockets,
but that households actually understand
what it is and know about it?
And right now, our community,
some people might have
heard something about it
when we do a small fundraiser,
but it's not the large-scale
community that we have
actually understanding what it is.
Until we get to that point,
it's just small projects here and there.
How do we sort of take that out
and really launch it to people so
that they say like, oh,
Block by Block is this.
- They've decided to use this year's
annual Minecraft convention, or Minecon,
to try and boost
the profile of Block by Block.
- Minecon is awesome.
People come from all over the world.
It's basically a
convention about all things
Minecraft and the love of the game.
This year is going to be
the biggest one yet.
Now it's crunch time,
so I'm losing sleep over like
okay I know it's going to be amazing,
but you just kind of wake up like,
okay, how's everything going?
What's going to happen?
Hello, Mr. Pontus.
- How are you?
- Good, come on in.
How was the flight over from Barcelona?
We can't do it in a time by itself
and basically say that
people have to go to it.
- We could try to do
our best to put it at a
time when there's not major competition.
If we do have a slot like that,
we can put Block by Block in that time
so that maybe it would
generate more interest.
Also talking about it
at the opening ceremony
and having the Block by Block panel
on the first day.
- Just so especially you
have adults and older kids
who are really interested in it
get that oh, this is something
I really want to go do.
- Right now, it's not quite as.
It's not out there, it really isn't.
People still don't know what it is.
- Everyone here loves Minecraft
so they want to see anyone that
has anything to do with it.
If I was wearing my badge,
probably more people would be like,
I don't know who you are,
but I see a Mojang badge.
I want to talk to you.
- With over 10,000
Minecraft fans attending,
it's a great opportunity.
But will the average gamer be interested
in Block by Block, or even understand it?
- It's a difficult concept to understand.
There's elements of
you're playing the game,
there's elements of it
being built in real life,
but we're really excited
to be able to show it.
- Nine, eight, seven, six, five,
four, three, two, one!
- Hello, London!
We are so excited
to have all of you here today.
- Minecraft have created
a Minecraft community.
I don't know how many million players
they have, but those guys,
they talk to each other.
- Hi, everyone.
How are you?
We're using Minecraft
as a way to involve young people
in urban design projects
in developing countries.
- When we now are
in dialogue with them,
that means that there is
probably 50 million people
that we have the possibility to talk about
the importance of public space
and town planning.
If you have so many people
who are actually convinced
that this is an important issue,
they are powerful.
- Hi, everyone, thank you for coming.
My name is Pontus Westerberg
and I'm the coordinator
for the Block by Block
program at UN Habitat.
- So what is this process here?
- I think the whole idea of Block by Block
is just incredible.
It takes the idea
of gaming changing the world
and just completely redefining it.
- UN Habitat works with
cities, city planning.
The mandate of UN Habitat
is to create sustainable cities
in all sorts of different ways.
And if we're not ensuring
that we're having a conversation
and involving all parts of the community,
then we're potentially failing
in that mission.
Gaming I think is a way
to bring in parts of the community
that might not engage
with these kind of processes normally.
People are really excited to see
Minecraft being used to help real people.
It really makes the game
go beyond just being a game
and something that is much more real.
- Back in the U.S.,
Jose and Gentaro are on
their way to the Game
Developers Conference in San Francisco
to market their game to the press.
The reaction and reviews
from events like these often decide
whether a game will be a big hit
or a miss.
- Hey, guys,
can we tell you about the game?
Do you want to hear about the game?
We need to try to play
with bigger creations.
People pass and see the empty canvas.
I've always felt like maybe
we are like this bunch of amateurs.
We're kind of architects
disguised as game designers, you know?
So you are creating this kind
of system that is really
circular in terms of its relationship.
But this means so much to me.
I'm sharing like a part of my
You know, my heart, my soul.
- On the day of the game's release,
reviews start coming in.
- Cities: Skylines was
last year's breakout
urban construction sim,
but in 2016,
it could all be about Block'hood.
- To realize that we were, like, among
all these incredible games,
like The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4,
all these insanely huge projects that
are millions of dollars in the making.
They have like huge companies behind,
and among those,
people were starting to look at our game.
Obviously there's a lot of pressure,
like in the sense that could
we even be among that list?
Do we really belong
or was this kind of a
little bit of a fluke?
Someone is saying I bought
two energy drinks so
I can wait up tonight.
- Even though the reviews are great,
Jose and Gen decide to make
a few last-minute
improvements to the game.
- The next one is
electricity, also 10,000.
Hmm, I hate to be changing
the game at this time.
It's 3 p.m.,
we're releasing tonight at midnight.
We're doing a really late update
of the final bugs that we found.
I'm not sure if I'm doing right.
I'm self-conscious
about how actual people,
actual developers do
these kinds of things.
Sometimes I feel like such an amateur,
going through my files
and getting things fixed or solved.
The launch is coinciding
with the birthday of my brother.
He would have been 32 today.
Two minutes.
- Two minutes.
- If we press publish now, it's done.
- At this point, we really can't
do anything to the game anymore.
We have to trust ourselves
that we did everything we can.
- We need to figure out a way
in which we can train
or educate people better
to start conceiving what
are the cities of tomorrow.
And that's I think where games
can actually have a huge impact.
Okay, let's go ahead.
It's one minute.
I don't know if anybody's waiting.
We're going to release it anyway.
So prepare to release.
Games as a medium are putting these
problems in front of a
new generation, right?
A new generation that
feels empowered to affect
and interact with the
environment around them.
Here we go, guys.
- Do it.
- The publishing task
has been completed.
Your application is now
visible in the Steam Store.
Approved for release.
I honestly believe that many more projects
are going to emerge that
will bridge that gap
between gaming and reality.
The connection between a game
and reality is getting closer and closer.
- What mods does this conflict with?
- In Stockholm,
it's the night before the big workshop
and David and Emil
are making last minute changes
to fine tune their Cities: Skylines model.
- Tell me, what stage are you at now?
- We're currently taking a look
at some modifications
to add more content
to how traffic works.
We do know it's like
just a few hours really,
until the real thing happens,
but we have like four traffic mods now,
which allows us to change
the speed of the roads,
to decide where exactly you
can turn right and left.
You can see where people are driving
and now also we have this rush hour mod.
This is crazy.
This never happened before.
It's like in real life.
Sometimes it works great
and sometimes traffic is crazy.
And at the moment it's crazy.
- Hopefully they will not see it as
as much as a problem as we do.
- Yeah.
We'll quit this, start it up tomorrow
and hope that everything will work out.
- Yes.
- This will most likely work.
- I'm really excited to see what results
will come out of this workshop.
And I think maybe this could set the tone
for a lot of other
initiatives of this type,
where you try to use new technology
that innovates and develops quite quickly
in solving some of the older problems
that we have in society.
- We've been adding a lot of bus lanes,
or bus stops.
And we have added more subway stations.
- Look how calm this is.
People walking around,
they're all happy.
- The workshop is
provoking plenty of debate
around the new development.
And at its heart is a city builder game
designed and built for entertainment.
- It's not a perfect
simulation of reality.
Nothing can do that right now.
But as a tool,
it can bring different
kinds of people together.
People with technical experience,
youths that just want to learn,
politicians that don't really understand
anything about this topic.
Everyone can look at the screen
and it's a very easy
situation where you can point
and click and say, okay, but what happens
if you drag that?
That kind of platform for discussion
hasn't really previously existed.
- The game worked perfectly.
There's a lot of people
are really interested
in seeing where this is going.
And so are we.
- Yeah.
- As we think about the future of cities
and we think about the
sustainability of urban life.
Increasingly, people are talking
about how we can use this medium
and turn it into a kind
of instrumental tool.
- I mean, maybe there haven't been
enough of these initiatives yet
for there to be a clear sense of
how much they can have an effect,
but it's certainly true that
at the moment we're living
in a deeply undemocratic time
in the urban planning process.
And so, if gaming or
something like that were
to shake that up, it
would be very welcome.
- We now have the tools that allow
a group to imagine alternatives
which we didn't have before.
- Since the Minecon event in London,
interest in Block by Block
has steadily increased,
leading to many new projects
and a huge new development
for the Block by Block team.
- Now, just now, we have been approved
as a registered 501(c)(3) charity.
That's when you start
really getting into it
and getting the ball rolling
on many different things at once.
And now we have a new set of goals,
a whole new direction for
what Block by Block can be.
- All of a sudden, the world is having
Block by Block go all around.
It's hard for me to
articulate how it feels
to get to be part of it.
It's beyond what any of us could
have ever imagined would happen.
I would have never thought that
I would be part of something
that's actually changing people's lives.