Aaron Westre

City Fight!, 2012

My work emerges from the recombination of ideas from architecture, software development, biology, physics, social sciences, and other domains. I am educated as an architect and identify primarily with the discipline of architecture, but my medium is software. The software applications I create are tools that allow people to playfully engage with the creative process of design. They incorporate techniques from videogames, the sciences, and social media to arrive at novel 3D design tools that act as a counterpoint to more traditional design software. I am currently exploring techniques from multiplayer/networked video games, biological growth processes, machine learning, social software, and crowdsourcing to build creative, participatory design tools.

City Fight! is a video game that involves two players standing side by side facing a large screen. On the screen are two city grids – one red, one blue – separated by a river. It is each player’s goal to build a complete city before his or her opponent does. At each turn a skyscraper, an apartment block, a park or another piece of a city is launched upward into view of the players. These pieces are colored red or blue, indicating which player needs that piece. The two opponents fight to determine where it will land by using their arms to hit it in the right direction. Once a piece is hit, it falls onto the city grid and sprouts into the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramids or one of hundreds of buildings and landmarks from around the world.

Turn by turn, both grids fill up with an eclectic assortment of structures. Each city forming a unique, but oddly familiar, assemblage of world architecture. Each player sees an indicator showing the completeness of their city. It tells them if they need more tall buildings, more housing, more open space or other necessary components. Players can sabotage each other by stealing pieces before their opponent can hit them. The theft might help, but it could also overcrowd a city with shopping malls or parking garages. A bomb launches periodically giving players the opportunity to blow up part of their opponent’s city or get rid of unnecessary parts of their own. After fighting for a few short minutes, either red or blue will win by hitting one final piece into place, and be treated to an aerial tour of their new city.

At a basic level, City Fight! is an experiment in making cities into playthings. By building in a fast, fun and humorous way, the seemingly static cities that we inhabit may become more flexible and dynamic in our minds. At another level, City Fight! is about the growth of modern cities. This process is a continual struggle between political, social and commercial interests that can feel at times random, bewildering or wonderful. The game is built as an environment in which those same emotions can be felt, often in rapid succession. By experiencing the growth of a city in fast-forward, this process can be illuminated in all its messiness, complexity and absurdity.

Biography

b. 1975, Wilmar, MN
works St. Paul, MN

Aaron is a software developer working at the intersection of science, art and design. He is educated as an architect, receiving a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Minnesota in 2008. He is an instructor at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture where he teaches students how to create digital tools that enhance their creative endeavors. His research and creative interests lie in building software that allows artists and designers to expand their capacity to create ,communicate and collaborate.

Building Ornamentation Toolkit, 2010

Building Ornamentation Toolkit, 2010

He writes about his work

My work emerges from the recombination of ideas from architecture, software development, biology, physics, social sciences, and other domains. I am educated as an architect and identify primarily with the discipline of architecture, but my medium is software. The software applications I create are tools that allow people to playfully engage with the creative process of architectural design. They incorporate techniques from video games, the sciences, and social media to arrive at novel 3D design tools that act as a counterpoint to more traditional design software. I am currently exploring techniques from multiplayer/networked video games, biological growth processes, machine learning, social software, and crowdsourcing to build creative, participatory design tools.

His proposal is for

City Fight! is a multiplayer, networked video game in which players battle over the future of their city. Itʼs part first person shooter, part crowdsourced city planning tool. The goal of City Fight! is to protect the spaces and buildings that you love and destroy the ones you despise. Buildings, green spaces and other features of the city start out with a base reputation number. Players start out with a weapon called the love/hate gun with which they can raise or lower the reputation of any piece of the city. If a building reaches a reputation of zero it crumbles, leaving a vacant lot that can be redeveloped. Players can collect new weapons that create a variety of new buildings, parks, bike paths, and other features. Since this is a multiplayer game, other players can fire their love/hate guns at these features just like the preexisting city. Players increase in reputation based on how many other players love their new creations. Collaboration happens implicitly as all the players redefine their city, and also explicitly as players swap ammunition and gather to save beloved buildings. The city would evolve in unexpected ways, at times inspiring and at others ridiculous.

Links

A Mill Interactive Visualization, 2011
Software

Building Ornamentation Toolkit, 2010
Software

Complexity Machine 1, 2008
Software