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So there's this sim game called Cities: Skylines. it's kind of like Sim City, but there's more control over road placement and logistics of utilities. 

The way the game starts out, you have to pick a starting land, based on local mineral resources, water supplies and transportation access. Then you build a road out from a highway, zone some districts for housing and commerce, connect them to electricity and water sources, and you're off to the races. As the city grows you start needing more things like fire stations, police officers and trash pickup, and the challenge of the game is to balance all necessities with things like groundwater pollution, noise pollution, and traffic flow. It can be a real challenge, and there have been a few cities I've built where I was unable to adequately deal with trash pickup because I'd put my dumps too far away and made my roads too messy. It is quite satisfying to see one's little town slowly become a big city.

But after I put the game aside for a while, I got to thinking about the shape and the nature of cities. Specifically, the cities of the Eastern hemisphere. Cities that used to have walls, because they had to defend against sieges all the time. Cities where the houses within the walls were stacked high and close together, for space within the wall was at a premium. Cities where the majority of traffic was on foot, because automobiles had not been invented yet, and anyway how on earth can you get a cart through streets that narrow? Cities that, from the air, look rather ugly and monotonous, but from the ground have a wealth of detail, with surprises around every corner. You can still see these places in the center of modern metropolises of the eastern hemisphere; they are typically called the Old Town and attract a lot of tourism because they look so nice. They frequently have UNESCO World Heritage buildings, and some of them, like Florence's Old Town, are entirely protected under that label.

Such cities look nothing like the ones built in this game. Partly this is because they grew without zoning regulations and without a plan, unlike the game's cities where single-use zoning is a fundamental mechanic. It is also because the game presumes the primacy of automobile traffic as a means of mass transit, unlike places that grew out of foot traffic or, in the case of Manhattan, subway trains. Adding mass transit happens in the game AFTER the automobile traffic is well-established. Meanwhile in the real world, Manhattan owes its extent to the subway, and Brooklyn owes its extent to trolleys.

There is no way to do a Manhattan or a Brooklyn in the game, much less a Florence, and Venice is completely out of the question. You can make a Beverly Hills or a Compton, or a Hollywood, or perhaps a Pasadena, but if you want something less Automobile, forget it! Your model for city growth is Los Angeles and nothing but. You're not building a city to be strolled through, you're building a city to be driven through. HONK HONK. Did you want to take care of city life at ground level? Did you want pedestrian-only streets and plazas? Did you want to be able to measure the happiness of the residents based on public pedestrian interactions? Forget it! It's called Skylines, not Corner Butcher Shop! We're building up to the glittering dreams of Le Corbusier! You'll build this tower and you'll like it!

While there have been many expansion packs, none have addressed the game's fundamental assumptions about urban life. I would like it if they made a spinoff game where you have to manage a medieval city. In the meantime, I will start a city where everything is gravel roads, and see how the game likes it.

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