Mediamatic Magazine vol 5#3 Peter Mertens 1 Jan 1990


Maxis/Infogames/Brøderbund 1989 $49,95 color $79,50


SimCity -

Suppose you could plan everything. You are in power. Or at least you’re the mayor. Its up to you. What would you like? A metropolis, or instead, a cosy, small, open village? Should you develop global projects or are you just hoping for simple bourgeois happiness? SimCity simulates the city of your dreams. Suppose there were no frontiers, and no religion, suppose there was nothing to die for or to kill for, suppose that everyone... Your ideal can be tested against reality.

Unfortunately there is not much room for Utopias in SimCity. Reality proves to be surprisingly commonplace and harsh. You are not completely free to choose: the game opens with a natural area, a field with trees and rivers: but quite soon you are ordered to build more houses, trade centres and industrial areas. Economic growth according to the liberal economic model. Once you have obeyed this order, the rest follows: a power station, an electricity grid, and a road network: the town begins to five. People can now work, trade and live here.
Industry flourishes, migration starts. People are willing to live in your city. At once the subtle equilibrium of a small nineteenth-century town during the industrial revolution is created. As more factories are built, more and more people will have to work there and especially live in your city. If there are not enough houses, you won't get the workers, and thefactories will not be successful. To build new houses you need money, money to be paid out of public funds, which means an increase in taxes, though not too much, because otherwise prospective inhabitants will stay away. This in turn would lead to unoccupied houses, which would cause the crime rate in those neighbourhoods to go up, etcetera. Countless factors affect your citizens' life and wellbeing in the simulated town. SimCity keeps up with evolutionary influences, which makes it more exciting. Things happen unexpectedly, though they should not be unexpected if only youhad been a good administrator, or rather, a good American administrator. Your citizens revolt already when taxes rise above 10 per cent. In this post-capitalist society, motorways are the only way to move from one place to another. Policy decisions must be taken quickly. The citizens demand a fire station, they want lower taxation, or they demand that steps be taken against the rising crime rate in the suburbs. As you play and manipulate, distributing the budgets, new possibilities present themselves. While air pollution increases and becomes a threat to public health, you notice that neighbouring cities are building new power stations. Nuclear or coal-fired, their economic growth cannot be stopped. How to respond to these developments? Will you carve out a glorious future for your city? Leaning back in your desk chair, it is easy to imagine that you are taking part in the political fencing game. As mayor of your own SimCity and as a prospective member of the society for Geofiction, you have a role to play. How to deal with the drugs problem in the big cities? How to respond to a unified Berlin? Should youbuild new roads for endless rows of Trabis? A Marshall plan for Czechoslovakia? What about the economic development in southern Europe, which is lagging behind?

SimCity plays with town planning. Natural disasters, such as tornadoes, floods, fires, plane crashes and nuclear disasters keep you on the alert, and liven up a boring day at the town hall. To make it even more realistic, a number of scenarios have been added in which historic problems are solved, such as the traffic problem in Berne, the allied bombardment on Hamburg, or the earthquake in San Francisco (1906). The tone is educational if not pedantic. It is informative and entertaining, in one word: edutaining.

How and what? SimCity
1. The game works is mouse-controlled and has multi-coloured screens. It can be used on PCS equipped with an EGA card, the Mac Plus, Mac u and the Amiga. There is a screen that gives an overview which scrolls past the town districts.
2. The sound is limited but quite effective: metropolitan noise, or a voice announcing heavy traffic jams. The keyboard is full of secret routes, which is useful, because when disasters occur you have to act quickly. For the real addicts, a separate disk is available with a number of uncultivated area. You could re-create the surroundings of your own town.
3. There are help screens providing statistics about the well-being of the populations, the profit and loss account, and the mayors popularity.
4. Meanwhile the makers of the program (Maxis) have already announced the successor of SimCity. The title? Sim Earth