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News video games 26 April 2023, 15:40

author: Adam Celarek

Cities: Skylines Works for Science; Unusual Application of the Popular City Builder

A group of researchers decided to make a rather unconventional use of the popular game by Colossal Order. The city builder was used as a tool in an experiment.

A group of Austrian academics specializing in psychology conducted a series of studies, which aimed to test the effects of personality disorders on problem-solving skills.

For gamers, it may be interesting to note that during the experiment the subjects' skills were tested by playing a popular game of the city builder genre - Cities: Skylines.

Game used for science

A total of 242 adults, former patients of psychiatric and psychosomatic wards, were invited to participate in the study. The subjects included those struggling with personality disorders and depressive disorders. Among the characteristics highlighted were:

  1. paranoid traits (distrust of others);
  2. antisocial (disregard for social obligations and the feelings of others);
  3. schizotypal (withdrawal from social life);
  4. obsessive-compulsive (excessive perfectionism and inflexibility).

The task of those involved in the experiment consisted of playing the popular game by Colossal Order. After a certain period of time, their progress in expanding and managing the city was to be evaluated by the researchers.

Since some of the subjects had no previous exposure to video games, before approaching the task they were offered help in understanding all the key aspects of gameplay in Cities: Skylines.

The study's authors decided to include the popular city builder in the experiment because of the multidimensional gameplay offered by the game, which forces the viewer to make a series of decisions and provides a multitude of solutions when encountering a problem. When arguing for the use of Cities: Skylines, the researchers mention:

"The assumption of complexity is met because the system [of the game - editor's note] consists of many components, including a huge number of different constructions (areas, basic resources, roads, structures, electricity, water supply, etc.), options (tax issues, budgeting, credit, traffic management, security, health care and education) and parameters (population density, resident satisfaction, environmental issues and crime)."

The effects of the test group's struggles were then evaluated, and based on the comparison and analysis of the collected data, the researchers were able to draw a number of conclusions.

Research conclusions

In the expansion of the city, the worst performers were players who exhibited personality traits of schizotypal, histrionic and depressive nature. Players exhibiting symptoms of dependent personality and paranoid personality also faced some issues. Among these groups, the most common problems related to solving the complex problems posed to Cities: Skylines players.

According to those surveyed, schizoid, obsessive-compulsive and antisocial traits did not affect success in the game in any significant way.

According to Ulrike Kipman, one of the researchers involved in the project, the study found that personality traits directly affect problem-solving skills.

Among the traits that positively influence this aspect were action and work orientation or motivation to create. Less successful were those with higher social skills and those who were more sociable.

The conclusions also noted the lack of correlation between personality disorders and better performance during the study:

"[...] no single clinical personality structure was associated with better problem-solving performance (compared to non-clinical trait levels). Since personality disorders are generally associated with increased levels of neuroticism, which has been consistently found to negatively affect problem solving, this result is also consistent with general clinical intuition."

Games as a tool in the hands of academics

With the rapid development and popularization of our medium, it is safe to assume the increasing involvement of video games in scientific research, as presented in the text above.

The flexibility and diversity of video games makes them successful in serving many fields of science and life.

A sequel to Colossal Order's game is also scheduled to hit the market this year - Cities: Skylines II. It will be interesting to see if the sequel will also find its use in academic circles.

  1. Full survey report at
  2. An abbreviated study of the survey website
Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines

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