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“Brian's Inspiration For Traffic Engineer Career”

I enjoyed a range of video games from a young age. At first sight these don't immediately point to a future career and particularly not one as specific as mine. "A traffic engineer works to achieve the optimal traffic conditions for the areas to which they are assigned which, in practice, means achieving smooth-flowing, safe and well-maintained roads and sidewalks."

There are, however, some games I've played as I grew up that set me on a course that has landed me here. I've always loved playing both video games and board games, and many require and develop skills I now use everyday.

More than just the hard skills, though, there is a clear pattern in the games I've most enjoyed that inspired a love of managing and controlling systems, making iterative improvements, and enjoying the direct connection between my work and improved quality of life for people.
 

Outcome
Career as Traffic Engineer for over 20 years.


This outcome arises from the following 5 milestones over the span of 34 years, from 9 - 43 years-old:

DetailsPathway Details

Name: Brian Chandler
Stage of Life: 9 - 43 years-old
Genres: Action, Adventure, Communication, Creative, Fighting, Open World, Platform, Puzzle, Role-Play, Sequencing, Simulation, Strategy and World Building
Platforms: Board Game, Game Boy, GameCube and PC
 

 

Discovering A Love Of Systems

Age: 9-years-old / 01/01/1985 / 37 years ago

Platform: GameCube

An early game I played in 1980s arcades was Donkey Kong. It's a simple game about getting to the top of a structure to save a woman captured by a gorilla. However, there was plenty here to pique my interest in systems and improvement.

Climbing the structures in the game, working out the flow and motion of the barrels and other elements, and navigating their patterns to get to the top, fascinated me. I loved the idea of this fixed system through which I could pass. I couldn't influence many factors, but I could control my movement.

This understanding of systems, and the need to iterate my approach to incrementally improve, are both things I do every day in my job.

Brian gained a first hand, embodied understanding of navigating a living system.

Activities: Brian found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Donkey Kong:

This construction toy offers a range of systems-challenges that result in understanding about computing.
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Navigating An Unmapped World

Age: 17-years-old / 01/01/1993 / 29 years ago

Platform: Game Boy

Zelda may not have presented a navigation or flow challenge, but it was a world to explore. My instinct was not only to navigate this space for myself but to map things as he went to help other people find their way. As I played I would create a range of different maps, on paper or with models.

This led to a fascination with maze design and how these spaces are planned out to confuse the player and disrupt their flow, but eventually guide them to find their way.

Brian gained knowledge of how maze navigation functions to invite exploration and how we work to find an efficient way through them.

Activities: Brian found that the following related activities worked alongside playing The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening:


Design A Maze
MAKING AND DESIGNING

Creating mazes for other people to then attempt is a great way to take steps into video game creation, and aids systems thinking.
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You can expand your understanding of path finding in video games by visiting a physical maze.
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The Joy Of Well Planned Transport

Age: 18-years-old / 01/01/1994 / 28 years ago

Platform: PC

By the 1990s I had played a range of different games, but there really wasn't much of a theme or similarity I could discern between them. Sim City introduced me to new specific aspects of play I really enjoyed.

It's now a beloved memory as I spent hours crafting cities with different systems. I remember eschewing streets for rail lines (or a combination of the two), using the efficiency of carrying more passengers by train for a more efficient city.

I fell in love with the simple satisfaction of setting up a system that would then tick along under its own steam. This first taste of urban planning, traffic operations, and overall city building set me on a path to a career I'm grateful for discovering.

The mapping out in Sim City also got me out the door as I worked my way into the role. As an intern in the small town I grew up in (pop 8,000), I walked every sidewalk in the city limits and gave it a 1-5 quality score. My “database” (such as it was) was later used to develop a citywide sidewalk improvement program.

Brian started feeling that city planning and building were activities he wanted to be involved in.

Activities: Brian found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Sim City:

You can use a pothole mapping app, or just pen and paper to map out where these are in local roads.
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You can take a walk in your local area with pen and paper to enable you to map certain features, like you do in video games.

The Challenge of Collaborative Planning

Age: 42-years-old / 01/01/2018 / 4 years ago

Working as a Traffic Engineer for a number of years I was excited to see a number of board games focus on the theme of city planning. One of my favourites is Sprawlopolis.

It has a direct connection to my work at the time as a Transportation Engineer and Planner, and in some ways it is an a card-based version of Sim City. The different competing requirements you are set in the game, and the necessity of working with other people to meet them, is a good reflection of real world transportation planning challenges.

Brian deepened his ability to work collaboratively with other people on a complex shared task.

Activities: Brian found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Sprawlopolis:


Team Raft Building
CLUBS AND CLASSES

Supervised raft building exercises are a great way to engage in a new challenge that draws on planning, building and team work skills found in video games.
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The Importance of Route Planning

Age: 43-years-old / 01/01/2019 / 3 years ago

Platform: PC

This, along with Sim Traffic a professional traffic corridor simulation program from 2002, isn't really a video game in the strict sense. But it tied in to my early years as an engineer when I was timing coordinated traffic signal systems.

In the game Mini Motorways you can see the traffic load at each location and connect the roads and intersections to smooth these journeys. Drivers could experience less delay and arrive at their destination sooner if you got this right.

In particular the game teaches you to think of shared routes of travel rather than individual start and end points. Each coloured car needs to go to a specific building to work. As soon as you identify and address the different journeys things work much better.

Brian found that the game and related activities let to deepening his skill at identifying origin-destination pairs for travel, understanding different types of trips.

Activities: Brian found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Mini Motorways:

Watching a professional engineer tackle the challenges in the Mini Motorway game is both fascinating and helpful.
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Orienteering
PLAY OUTSIDE

Going on local orienteering trips, whether with a particular challenge like Geocaching or Letter boxing, or just to get to a destination, extends video game navigation skills and is a lot of fun.
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Pathway Outcome

The culmination of the milestones in the pathway lead to Brian career as Traffic Engineer for over 20 years. We have described it as a linear journey, but of course, there is always a fair amount of back and forth between the games they played.

Along with the main outcome Brian also changed in the following ways:

  • Disposition: Brian started feeling that city planning and building were activities he wanted to be involved in.
  • Knowledge: Brian gained knowledge of how maze navigation functions to invite exploration and how we work to find an efficient way through them.
  • Relationships: Brian deepened his ability to work collaboratively with other people on a complex shared task.
  • Skill: Brian found that the game and related activities let to deepening his skill at identifying origin-destination pairs for travel, understanding different types of trips.
  • Skill: Brian gained a first hand, embodied understanding of navigating a living system.

We focus on how games contribute to this outcome, but also include related activities that play a part of this journey:

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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