Saturday, September 18, 2010

I run the city bitches!


Name: SimCity
Type: City-building
Mode: Single-Player
Dev/Designer: Will Wright
Composer: Soya Oka
Company: Maxis
Publisher: Broderbund
Original Release: 1989 for PC and Macintosh
Legacy: SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, SimCity Societies, SimEarth, SimCopter, SimAnt, SimTower, SimSocieties, etc.
Claim to fame: First successful open-ended video game.



[ update: with over 80 votes collected here and on the video game canon, SimCity has officially been inducted to the Video Game Canon as its first game ever.]

I'm bias. Guilty as charged. SimCity was the first PC video game I got to play with, loved it, FOCKING LOVED IT, spent a ridiculous amount of hours creating a great city only to tear it apart with a tornado. So no, it is no coincidence that I start this new blog with SimCity. Sue me. Better yet vote people, vote. In 1987, while I was still dealing with the existential dilemma of whether or not to believe in Santa Claus, Will Wright and Jeff Braun created Maxis, and two years later in 1989, the brand new company introduced a new paradigm to the gaming world: a simulated city with citizens, roads, houses, cops, firefighters, airports and even natural disasters. Yet no sign of Santa Claus there either :(

Then again, if you were a little tyrant who couldn't wait to grow up and run the world, forget the fat bastard in a red and white apparel clogging the chimney, SimCity was all you needed. The first kick ass open ended game where you got to create and manage a entire city. And rather realistically I might add. 

Creating chimneys big enough for Santa.

You start the game with $20,000, lots of land and a panel of tools to build roads, houses, power plants and watch citizens begin to move in and pay you taxes. It's all about the benjamins, and with more money comes more problems. You soon have to build more power plants and power lines to provide electricity to the growing masses, build roads, and more roads, and then even more roads, and then..., freaking roads. Because even in a simulated world we cannot all get along, you will also need to build police and fire stations, parks, stadiums, airports, etc, everything and anything to keep your citizens distracted, and keep ranking in the benjamins. Rule #1: Keep track of the wants and needs of your citizens. Rule #2: Fock the wants and needs of your citizens. This is the great thing about SimCity: no endgame, no final mission nor final boss to defeat; you build the city you like, you run it as you like, good or bad, you do what you want.

To be good though will require some management, planning and problem solving skills. But no PhD in civil engineering is required here. Keep your mayor's rating up, your citizens happy, and your treasury full. In a world like that, who needs Santa Claus?

Here's why SimCity, in my not so humble opinion, deserves to be inducted in the Canon:

1. Management
SimCity took the whole game management skills to a whole new level as players must handle a chaotic and unpredictable mix of economic, political and human realities. While it's no Advance Macroeconomics, SimCity has often been criticized for its complexity and the minutia involved. Fighting crimes, pollution and natural disasters while providing jobs and housings to your citizens will quickly put your skills to the test. A true pioneer in the genre.

Civil Engineering 101 in a perfect world.

2. Map Generation
Some people like to play video games. Others like to create maps. Will Wright blurred the lines between the two, for the first time giving players the ability to build sprawling metropolises, to watch them grow and randomly develop like living organisms. In Borges allegory of the map, the ultimate map is the one where it is confused with the reality it is supposed to represent, but with SimCity, the map is no longer a representation of the real. In SimCity, the map is the model from which the real is simulated. The map is no longer a mean to an end, but the end itself. Before there was Foursquare or Google Maps, there was SimCity.

3. Open-Ended
The simulations that SimCity creates have no endpoint, and technically could go on forever. A city that never stops growing. A story that never ends. The finite giving birth to infinity. In SimCity, each action creates a myriad of paths leading to unpredictable consequences, events and changes. Regardless of how well-planned, designed and organized a city is, chaos will manifest itself in the form of fire, crime, pollution, natural disaster, etc. The number of possible scenarios approaches infinity, or better yet, reality. Either way, a new pleasure is born, that of not just game, but fiction with a never ending story, that of a finite creation with endless possibilities.


Next week candidate for admission: Street Fighter.

14 comments:

  1. simcity is a classic game, man i loved playing it

    ReplyDelete
  2. Congratulations on the new blog! Are you accepting suggestions? And if so, is admittance to the Video Game Canon based on market success as well? I have a few games in mind that never got really big, though I believe they were quite brilliant.

    On SimCity, The 2000 iteration was my first experience of the franchise. It did not make an overly great impression on me. I've personally always been a sucker for fantasy and aesthetics, and the game just didn't tick those boxes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Shos, and yes I welcome suggestions. Next week, I'm going to review either MafiaWars or FarmVille, based on Jesper Juud's suggestion for a social game. I'm looking into games that are/were innovative or introduced a new paradigm in gameplay. Which games did you had in mind?

    You gotta have a god-complex to really appreciate a game like SimCity, either that or playing SimCity creates a god-complex ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well, I'm not sure this game was innovative because at the time of release I was completely unaware of what the word "innovation" means. However, Day of the Tentacle is a cult phenomenon, right?

    Another game from the same era that I never hear about despite the quality is Robin Hood: Legend of the Longbow. It was the first time ever that a story struck me, but I'll admit ... I was probably 8 years old. Still, I've emulated the game not too long ago and it's still good.

    O wait, I know, the first Dune game! It's like a mix of adventure and RTS. I've never seen the like before or after. That's go to be worth a nomination :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah, Dune is a classic, I loved that game, I'm glad you brought it up, I'll be putting it on the list. I never heard about Day of the Tentacle but if it's a cult it's def worth looking into.

    I might do Dune in a couple of weeks, I'll let you know :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Interesting game. I really liked it. Ps3 repair

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey Gareth, this is Pimp Hand from Media MindField. Simcity is a classic, Will Wright is a legendary game designer. I'm not sure about Mafia Wars or Farmville, I know they get an insane amount of players but I'm pretty sure Zygna copied other games when creating them. I'm not sure if originality is part of what you look at but Zygna is pretty notorious for copy and pasting game ideas.

    On another note I'm looking for collaborators - contributors for my site. Get at me if you think you would like to contribute or at the very least share some links. I'll stop buy your site in a couple days and if you want I'll shoot you an email.

    ReplyDelete
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