Concordia’s Next-Generation Cities Institute (NGCI) uses a playful urban simulation platform to bring together its research, data and models in a more holistic and interoperable way. Leading the charge is new Senior Advisor Chris Gibbs, a longtime gaming industry veteran with world-class experience developing interactive and engaged user experiences (UX).
This simulation platform will play a central role in helping policy makers and the public engage with the science emerging from the NGCI and visualize potential solutions in real time.
From game development to fun climate action
Gibbs has created games for major publishers such as Electronic Arts, Activision, Atari, Lucasfilm and LEGO. He is also an independent video game developer with his own mobile game application.
His expertise in gamification principles, graphics and game design, and software engineering positions him perfectly to lead the front-end design of the simulation platform.
After earning a degree in software engineering, Gibbs helped start a small game development company, Attention to Detail, which quickly became a success. One of the company’s first major deals was with LucasArts, part of the Lucasfilm empire.
Later, Gibbs took a job as executive producer and studio head for Electronic Arts, where he spent another 10 years working on top video games. He began to focus particularly on user experience and explore “how to maximize software to deliver the unique experiences you want users to have”.
This focus on user experience drove him to leverage game design techniques and gamification principles to develop engaging and responsive software.
In 2012, Gibbs left the corporate world, spending several years developing his own successful mobile video game, Smart Numbers, receiving hundreds of thousands of downloads.
“It was the first time I really started to open my eyes to the world beyond making games – looking more at politics, current affairs and especially the growing risks of climate change, which were being reported all over the world. that time.”
After a chance meeting with Ursula Eicker, founding co-director of the NGCI and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Communities and Cities, the two began discussing the merits of video game interfaces and gamification. . They quickly realized that Gibbs’ background and the institute’s engagement goals were a perfect match.
“Accelerated engagement with decision makers”
Gibbs is responsible for developing and overseeing a playful urban simulation, originally titled Future City Playgrounds. Work has been underway for some time on collecting the necessary data and building the back-end software and models for state-of-the-art simulation of energy and heating/cooling needs of urban buildings, which will eventually come together to visualize the buildings. ‘ real lifelong carbon footprints.
Future City Playgrounds is the front-end visualization component. “With this software, you can play on real buildings and do renovations – change materials used for walls and roofs, change windows and panels, plant vegetation on the roof, add heat pumps for more efficiency,” says Gibbs.
“These changes then log into the back-end and modify the models, allowing you to see how your changes can make buildings more carbon efficient and more sustainable.”
The playing field has evolved to now envision a state-of-the-art platform for engaging stakeholders and decision-makers with real-time city data across many city systems and applications.
“Now it’s more of a suite of fun tools that can be customized and adapted to each use case or stakeholder need – whether it’s for Hydro Quebec, an architect, a landlord or a transport operator. together – always with a vision to make a city greener. adds Gibbs.
Going forward, he hopes to build several prototypes for different projects and simulations using this platform, encouraging collaborative efforts between Concordia researchers and external stakeholders such as city decision makers, real estate developers and stakeholders. industry. He is deeply motivated by the engagement potentials of the project.
“Rapid engagement with decision-makers becomes more important than ever as we run out of time to act on climate change,” notes Gibbs. “The fundamental role that these prototypes and this platform can play is to wake up stakeholders and make them see concretely how we can reduce carbon emissions and improve the world.”
Learn more about Concordia’s Next Generation Cities Institute.