Theory Play Share & Discuss

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Teach Human Development
with Cities: Skylines

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Human Development

This lesson is all about the Human Development Index and how city design choices can help to improve it!

Teacher Resources

  • Theory: Human Development Index (HDI) and citizen needs.
  • Play: Students work to provide optimal services and living conditions in their city.
  • Share & Discuss: These questions focus on HDI and citizen needs.


  • The Human Development Index (HDI) was developed by the United Nations as a metric to assess the social and economic development levels of countries. (source)
  • Life expectancy, the right to free speech, possibilities for education and average income are the cornerstones of defining a country's HDI.
  • While HDI is a tool used for comparing countries to one another, improving the elements it consists of can be a very efficient to improve human life, even on a city level.

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources

Cities and Inequality

  • Societies tend to naturally become more unequal. There are many types of inequality, commonly caused by socioeconomic factors such as disparate incomes, prejudice and unequal opportunity.
  • Since the late 1970s, income inequality has risen sharply in the UK and USA. (source)
  • Unequal societies tend to suffer from higher rates of crime.
  • Inequality remains a controversial issue, but improving education, welfare, changing attitudes and providing opportunities are the key ways of reducing it.

Gameplay screenshot

Teacher Resources


Lesson Goal

  • Keep building your city from last time. Aim to provide optimal services for everyone in your city.
  • Remember to use the overlay options in the top left corner of the screen to know what needs the citizens have!
  • What is the best way to provide services? Are there multiple ways?

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How to Play

To begin a new game, click the New Game button. If you want to continue a city you played the last time, click Continue Game. To play a city that you've built previously (but wasn't the last one you played), click Load Game.

Gameplay screenshot

When starting a new city, choose the terrain by clicking on the one you would like to play on the list. Once you are happy with your choice, select Start to begin the game.

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Some lessons require you to play a scenario. To start a scenario, select New Game in the main menu, then Choose Scenario (pictured). Scenarios differ from standard maps by having unique winning conditions.

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Hints: Basic Needs

  • In Cities: Skylines, basic rights include water, electricity, security and health.
  • Without these basic rights, people will quickly stop moving in and many existing citizens will move out.
  • Security can be provided with police and fire stations.
  • If there are no sources of pollution, sewage or disease among the residential zones of your small beginner city, you will only need a few clinics to provide healthcare.

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Hints: Advanced Needs

  • People have additional needs as well: education, jobs and recreation.
  • Education is provided by buildings such as elementary schools, high schools and universities. If you build higher education, make sure there are jobs available for the graduates (with office zones).
  • Jobs are created by having sufficient commercial and industrial areas. Remember to also provide sufficient workers: if all your citizens have a college degree, you will not have enough factory workers!
  • Recreation in-game means that you simply have enough commercial areas and parks and greenery. Parks also help to reduce noise pollution!

Gameplay screenshot

Share & Discuss

Share & Discuss

  • Which service was the most difficult to provide? Why?
  • Do you think it is easy to keep your citizens happy in Cities: Skylines? Why? Why not?
  • It can be dangerous to not provide some services. Which services are vital? Why?

Tasks after Playing

  • What are the cornerstones of defining a country's HDI?
Show Notes

Life expectancy, the right to free speech, possibilities for education and average income.

  • What factors of HDI are represented in Cities: Skylines? What are not?
Show Notes

Things that are represented:

  • Education
  • Access to medical care and health
  • Safety (crime and police)
  • The availability of work

Not represented:

  • Life expectancy
  • Clear representation of per-citizen income and wealth
  • Freedom and the ability to vote (available always by default in-game)
  • What are the key ways of reducing inequality?
Show Notes

Improving education, welfare, changing attitudes and providing opportunities are the key ways of reduction.