This Useless Game Spotlights the Roadblocks to Fixing Our Cities

"SIM NIMBY" is the most useless game ever ... which is exactly the point.

these tire shops are historic


There's no shortage of nicknames for people and their building opinions. There are the NIMBYs who say, "Not in my backyard!" There are the BANANAs who say, "Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything." And there are even the CAVEs who are "citizens against virtually everything." These types show up in droves at public meetings to oppose bike lanes, intensification, transit, and many of the changes we need to get people out of cars or create much-needed housing, particularly of the affordable kind. They are particularly powerful in California.

title page for game


NIMBY Bingo has been around for years, but Steve Nass and Owen Weeks, advertising copywriters in Brooklyn, now bring us SIM NIMBY—a play on SIM City—with 54 commonly heard NIMBY quotes. (Turn down your sound before you try it.)

Unlike SIM City, you can't actually build anything, ever. You click and click and every time, you get the same popup message: “ERROR. CAN’T BUILD IN NIMBYVILLE.” You'll also receive a hilarious quote such as, “Housing is a human right! Just why does it have to be here?”

Nass tells Bloomberg the game was inspired by San Francisco, where he lived for a few years, noting that: “We have people living on the street or people paying ridiculous amounts in rent for tiny apartments, and people are complaining about preserving their views and worrying about the local character?”

But the themes are universal. It could be New York City or Boston and sounds exactly like Toronto, where I live, where nothing gets changed in single-family residential areas because ... you CAN’T BUILD IN NIMBYVILLE.

We talk about green building and many cities have developed greener building codes, but the single biggest factor in the carbon footprint of our cities isn't the amount of insulation in our walls—it's the zoning. it rarely gets changed because ... you CAN’T BUILD IN NIMBYVILLE.

Property values should be sky high


Some of the NIMBY quotes are ones you hear all the time. Others are hilarious exaggerations like, ”The only thing urban I want to see in my neighborhood is Keith Urban.” The game doesn't do very much. Nass tells Motherboard they could have made it more functional, “but the whole point is you can’t build anything.”

The pro-density nonprofit California YIMBY recently covered a study about how NIMBYs and these ridiculous statements actually do make a difference. They wrote: "Comments made at public hearings do matter, but tend to be made by unrepresentative voices, resulting in planning outcomes that entrench elite preferences."

The people making comments are generally whiter, an average of 21 years older than the median resident. California NIMBY concludes that "the findings suggest that policymakers and planners should closely examine the role of the public hearing in planning." Then we could laugh instead of cry at sites like SIM NIMBY and the funny Bingo cards.