Retrospective: SimCity 2000

Herman Cain is launching a new web-only TV channel aptly called Cain TV. The trailer (is that the right word? Do TV channels have trailers?) can be viewed here.

You are either going to think it’s laughable or exactly what America needs. I can’t imagine Cain TV occupying a space anywhere between those two polarities.

My infatuation with Herman Cain stems from the fact his “999” tax plan was ripped straight from SimCity 4. Cain’s “999” proposal involved a 9 percent corporate income tax, a 9 percent individual tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax. Thanks to the resulting media frenzy that occurred in November, you probably already know that this is the default tax structure for any new city in SimCity 4.

I have no intentions of running for president and I don’t think video games should be used as models for policy making but I will say this: I learned a lot about civics and government thanks to the SimCity franchise.

My family’s first computer, a Packard Bell, came with SimCity 2000. I spent countless hours watching (staring dumbfounded) as my cities (cesspools) grew into economic powerhouses (devolved into crime-ridden shitropolises).

Not pictured: terrible demon noise produced by the disc tray.

More importantly, I developed a sense about how cities generate income, the costs associated with building and maintaining infrastructure, and, more generally, do stuff. Although I have previously written about horribleness of edutainment video games, kids can learn from some games—especially simulations where playing and developing systemic thinking are so entwined.

I also got to play with the relationship between industry and its impact on the environment. I always made a point to research satellite microwave power plant. These fictional plants were fitted with a giant satellite that collected cosmic energy that was beamed down from space. This type of plant was extremely clean but there was always the chance the beam could misfire and destroy parts of your city. So even though space lasers were randomly melting schools, the lakes of Buttville were fucking pristine.

Thanks in part to Sim City and also Age of Empires, I developed an interest in the rise and fall of ancient empires and their cities. This means I made some pretty badass dioramas of Ancient Rome for Social Studies.

“What’s a diorama?”

Best of all, Maxis is developing a new SimCity for early 2013 and it looks fantastic. Unfortunately, it looks like it will have always-on DRM, which is a bad, bad thing.


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