Tuesday, March 5, 2013

SimCity (not a review or an endorsement)

Ramblings Post #216
Why do we play? We play to escape the humdrum reality of lives, just as when we read or go to the cinema. We play video games because they let us become someone else, allow us to triumph as participants instead of passive observers. We realize that these worlds are but fantasy, but if the choice is to remember that you're an accountant lost in a cubicle farm or to pretend for a while to be what you always dreamed....why not pretend? 

Image via Redditor TotalBiscuit

I have played SimCity since it's first inception. It is the essence of management games, where you have to balance the needs of the citizens versus the tools you had to work with.

I remember building my airport downtown to see if I could get one of the planes to crash (this was in the mid 90's). I remember trying to build a city with only subways. Or when I finally got my first highway system only to screw it up completely. Or when I figured out how to make farms before you could designate a zone agricultural.  I remember the joy when my dense zoning finally yielded skyscrapers, when I realized that the all the houses near the mayor's house were ritzy, when I got my own little silicon valley going, arcologies, and all the llama references. There was the city I tried to build like a doughnut with space to put all the big stuff downtown that fell apart. It was maddeningly addictive.

I will not be buying the latest iteration.

Why? That damned always online concept they have appended to the system. Plain and simple.

Even worse the damned thing can't be modded, has removed terraforming, shrunk the size of the city you can build and removed the idea of single play entirely. Who exactly is this game made for?

Not everyone and not everything can be made social. That the old versions game still has an active modding community to creates maps and new parts of the game speaks volumes. People who play SimCity's previous versions do share, but in essence like to create their own space.

I've never played Farmville, or Mafia or any of those other social things on Facebook, where I need a friend to drop by to help me play better. Maybe I'm missing something. But the idea that I would need a slot on a server to play a game at home - where I intend to interact with nobody is ludicrous. That the game encourages dealing with other folks is silly. We aren't questing here, this is city management.

That if the server is full and I might not be able to play at all is even more insane. That five years from now EA might decide to shut down the servers making play impossible borders on detachment from reality! I have games I still play that are ancient. I still boot up the original Tropico, Railroad Tycoon II and Ancient Empires II when I get bored. I have a copy of Front Page Sports Football 97 that still gives me a better challenge than the latest Madden. I still play SimCity 4.  

That this new version (released today) of the game actually tracks individual Sims better than all the previous versions is just twisting the knife. It's so much fun they say. Not if I can't put my city on an island shaped like Mickey' Mouse's head. And what if I want to start over?

Oh, well. The version I'm still playing has whole regions. And terraforming. 

Barkeep, as Mayor of Shuckyduckieville, I hereby declare this bar open!  Drinks for everyone! The city isn't paying for any of this.

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