Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Time to Destroy: A SimCity Retrospective

Remember way back in the day when you’d spend all of recess toiling in the sandbox trying to create the perfect sandcastle? Then just when the bell is about to ring, the school bully and your personal tormenter comes and destroys it, kicking all of your hard work and progress over with one swift movement, leaving you crying in its wake. For the record, the tears were from the sand in my eyes. While you may never have a chance to get her back for all that she’s done because she’s bigger than you and is infected with the cootie virus, you can experience something similar with the classic simulation game, SimCity.

The premise of the game is simple enough – Build housing, commercial business and industrial lots to provide your citizens with places to live and work and the all-too-essential electricity. Out of the box this seems like the greatest idea; an entire civilization at your fingertips and far away from the clutches of Jessica Whatsherface.

In actuality, the so-called power is little more than the ability to place zoning lots and roads. If you’re unsatisfied, you can bulldoze the whole thing for a slight loss of your lack of funds, but that shouldn’t be unsettling to you. Now it’s the responsibility of the people to work with what you have provided. The unsettling is the incessant bitch-fest that you’re about to encounter.

Pollution, crime and traffic immediately begin to spawn their ugly faces into your beautiful Utopia. Suddenly the power plants are too close, so you shut them down and move them. The streets, which have no ability to become expanded to anything larger than a two-way street, are suddenly filled with pixilated boxes. As for the crime, I’m guessing you just have to take their word for it. It’s not like there’s little pixel-people that you can chase down and arrest.

Next thing you know you find out that your teenage daughter is pregnant, your wife’s having an affair with Henry from the mail room and your dog just got run over by the drunkard down the street. While that last part never happens in the game, it seems to fit perfectly with the depressing motif of giving hours of your life for an ever-growing supply of malcontents. So what satisfaction do you achieve by building a megalopolis? How about the fact that God is on your side?

That’s right, the big guy upstairs understands your frustration and lends you his angel of death in the forms tornadoes, earthquakes and even Godzilla to punish the whiny bastards. Your vindictive nature is finally satisfied as fires begin to erupt around the city, power lines are destroyed making lightning strike indefinitely above residential and commercial lots. If this isn’t moving fast enough for you, you still have your handy-dandy bulldozer, destruction that pays. What better way to end the game by destroying the world you worked so hard to build with your pockets overflowing with virtual cash and no more whining.

All in all, I had a lot of fun with this game, frustrating as it may have been. In fact, this entire game may have been an advertisement for the Amish. No electricity, no traffic-ridden roads, just a bunch of good ole boys with Biblical names and wickedly awesome beards.

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