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Isolationist Architectural Design in Sim City

September 18, 2008

With all the hubbub about Spore and it’s supposed agenda against Creationist theory and support over intelligent design, I began to ponder to back to my Sim City days. Primarily the role of the various disasters and how little this aspect of Sim City has evolved in the series. Though I adore the Sim City series, I have a huge problem with the sort of isolationist architectural design philosophy in the game.

It is well known that Will Wright had taken inspiration from Christopher Alexander’s book A Pattern Way which deals in city planning and its sociological effects on maintaining and building communities and wellness– which influenced the premise more so in the Sim City: Societies — this series seems to have widely ignored the ecological factors in city planning. This is where my issues with the disasters in Sim City emerge. The disasters in the series are not implemented in any logical fashion, tornadoes are highly unlikely to appear in metropolitan areas–not that UFOs are any more realistic. I feel that location and terrain should have a larger impact to the city. If a city is build in a valley there should be consequences of drought and if a city is built on top of a swamp consequences of a possible flood dangers should arise.

And this is what many of the Sim Series games inadvertently do, which is provide a very aggressive skew towards society. The Sims series was well known for it’s extremely materialistic view of human wellness where a person’s happiness would be determined through the things owned. This is not more apparent from the new IKEA expansion pack for The Sims. Even Spore is simplified as herbivores progress slowly through the game and eventually are forced to become religious zealots whereas carnivores breeze through the evolutionary stages and are forced to be vicious war mongering creatures. It is a problem of simplication without consideration to consequence that is a overarching theme in many of the games in this series.

Coming back to Sim City these valid ecological circumstances need to be considered in city planning. Though pollution has appeared in the Sim City series, this aspect of ecological effect has yet to be fully explored. And in terms of city planning, this should be a large factor to be considered. It is a very isolationist view of city building where the city itself is not part of the world it inhabits. However, on the plus side it does show that there is ample growth for the series and unexplored territory that reveals a bright future for these games and still the wide scope of responses and impressions that can be be provide to the player.

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