Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In the beginning…there was SimCity

As a kid I had no idea what urban planning was. I liked cities, I liked real estate (courtesy of my summer vacations helping my grandfather with his rental properties in Milwaukee), and I figured there was some future in both of these interests for me. I also liked building things with Legos - had no idea that could be a career option (If I had a time machine…). At some level I understood that certain places had a better "feel" to them than others due to someone saying, "Let's not stick these kinds of buildings near this landfill/cemetary/airport/etc." I understood that Milwaukee was a city that had been shaped differently than Atlanta for various reasons.

SimCity didn't make me a real estate tycoon or a urban planning expert but it did open my eyes to a certain extent on how communities can be shaped and built. I remember playing it on my first Mac and at school and spending hours trying to build big cities. According to Wikipedia the game first came out in '89 but I don't think I saw it until I was 8 or 9 ('90). Like any simulation game it had its loopholes and flaws but I was always curious to see how I could Test the limits of a city's infrastructure or build a place where businesses and residences worked together happily. If I made a mistake I could always send in Godzilla In to finish off the inhabitants. Of course, I was really doing more than just city planning - I was really acting as a city administrator with total control over zoning and budgeting.

I did graduate to other Sim products like SimEarth, SimTower and the updates to SimCity (SimCity 2000 & SimCity 4) but after awhile I noticed that these simulations Started to lose some of the essence that made me such a big fan of the original. I could barely get SimCity 4 to run on my PowerMac Performa with all of the graphic details and would sneak on to my parents' computers in their home office to try using theirs. By the time the Sims rolled around I had lost a good bit of interest in the games. My appreciation for being in the shoes of the people making plans for cities and suburbs never waned. I like to think that the original SimCity compares to the Sims in the same way that you would compare Miles Davis to Kenny G (no disrespect to you Kenny!).

The other day I noticed that I could download SimCity onto our new Nintendo Wii and I've also found out the game is available for the BlackBerry and the iPhone. It's Not Tetris but I'm sure tons of money has been made off of the franchise. One day I may get a little nostalgic, perhaps in the summer, and crack open the game again.

Do you have want to reminisce or talk about your SimCity experiences? Just leave me a note in the Comments section. If reading this post makes you want to play again hold on to your wallet -  you can go here or here and get the old version for free. Another cool link is this Wikibook on SimCity and Urban Planning. Enjoy!

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