When Indiana cities closed due to the pandemic earlier this year, an Indiana University Bloomington student found another way to experience his favorite cities through a virtual game.
Matthew Harrison, a junior from Carmel who studied interior design at Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, spent his quarantine virtually recreating downtown Indianapolis and Bloomington using the building simulation video game Cities: Skylines.
“I’ve since finished in both Indianapolis and Bloomington and moved north to the Gary-Chicago area,” he said.
In the video game, the building assets are already created by the game’s developers. It’s about defining each street and placing the individual buildings in each city.
“You build and maintain your own cities and grow them,” Harrison said. “There really is no end. The end comes when you are either bored or have achieved all of the goals you or the game’s developers set.”
To start a city, Harrison first looks at Google Maps and focuses on iconography over accuracy. For example, Bankers Life is where Victory Field is supposed to be. The field provided by the developers was too large for Harrison’s layout. But while it is all “guesswork” as he puts it, a player can still conclude that the city is Indianapolis.
Harrison spent 121 hours building Indianapolis and Bloomington. He said he worked about two to three hours a day and sometimes spent five hours a day when he had more time. Fixing a simple bug can take hours.
Harrison said he accidentally made Lake Monroe a little too big, cutting off parts of Bloomington. However, he finds ways to get along with his tools and bypasses the mistakes.
Harrison said he takes breaks when things get too repetitive or when the game developers update the game. His current Indiana city project is being recognized for the most time ever put into a single project.
In the past, Harrison has worked on projects based in San Francisco, various European cities, New York City, small towns in the middle of nowhere, and more, he said.
“I’ve let projects come and go in this game and I thought, why not do something that I would know personally?” Said Harrison. “I’ve been to these places, I’ve lived in these places, and it just made more sense than trying to recreate a place I’ve never been.”