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An 8 year old city builder on Steam is so complex that it is used for psychological studies

an 8 year old city builder on steam is so

Participants in a study played Cities: Skylines on Steam to test their ability to solve complex problems.

What is this study? Ulrike Kipman, professor of educational sciences, wanted to investigate the connection between personality and depressive disorders and complex problem-solving skills (via gamesradar +).


To see these skills in action, study participants were asked to play the city sim Cities: Skylines. The game by the Finnish development studio Colossal Order is about building a city that functions as efficiently as possible.

Players are responsible for everything from infrastructure and taxes to the health and happiness of residents. The game was chosen because it “continuously presents players with new challenges to overcome.”

Participants in the study were 242 people between the ages of 17 and 48 with 9 different personality disorders.


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People with more severe disorders have a harder time

What did the study find out? The study shows that participants with more severe disorders were less successful at playing Cities: Skyline and thus at solving complex problems. The personality traits that had a particularly strong impact on gaming success were:

  • schizotypal traits characterized by social withdrawal
  • histrionic traits, that is, tendencies toward overdramatization
  • depressive traits, including feelings of prolonged sadness and loss of interest

People with paranoid and dependent personality traits also found the game more difficult, but the correlation was less pronounced. On the other hand, characteristics such as resilience, action orientation and creative motivation had a positive effect.

Kipman is convinced of the usefulness of video games in research:

[Die Studie zeigt]that we can best measure complex problem-solving skills with simulation games and not with short tests.

Ulrike Kipman via psypost

If you want to put your own problem-solving skills to the test, you can find Cities: Skylines, you can get the Citybuilder for PC or Console. The Steam version is particularly recommended – and even mentioned in the study – because the workshop offers you countless additional buildings and content.


If you want to know how Cities: Skylines meets the parameters of a Brehmer-Dörner microworld and Funke’s standards of complex problems, you can read the entire study in English in Frontiers in Psychology.

The Swedish publisher Paradox Interactive is responsible for simulation and strategy games like Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis and Victoria. With their next title they take on a life simulation à la The Sims: Without violence, but with nudity, as it should be for Europeans:

New game on Steam will be adult Sims – but with nudity because it’s from Europe