'SimCity' is a classic computer game from Maxis
(at the time, the psuedonym of Will Wright
), released in 1989
for the PC
, Commodore Amiga
, Atari ST
, and - impressively - the Sinclair Spectrum
and Commodore C64
, and also the SNES
, as mentioned in the next writeup.
The game involved creating a city from generic city blocks - industrial, commercial and residental areas for your citizens, plus utilities and special items such as American football stadia - with the goal of allowing your citizens to be happy, productive, free of crime and pollution. No matter how well you laid the city, no matter which fashionable theories of social engineering you applied, the people - the god-damn beautiful people - always messed it up, with traffic jams and ungrateful cretins who complained about tax, in which case you could have great fun demolishing their power stations and setting a 'large reptilian creature' (definitely not Godzilla, who had to be removed from the box art after complaints from Toho) on them. The moral of SimCity is that of tank warfare; people are greasy stains on the radiant machine.
As with the similar Missile Command, SimCity is ultimately a demoralising experience; even if one could create a stable, utopian society, just for one day, it would require constant superhuman effort to keep it that way - and in the end the city is limited in size by the edges of the playfield. The only solution would be to deliberately limit the size of one's city, but this runs contrary to human nature, which has exhibited a rapacious desire to expand and consume since the beginning of time. Thus, the two fundamental political models are exposed; on the one hand, unfettered expansion, liberty, and a large, mostly miserable population, and on the other hand rigid order and discipline and... well, there's no downside to that, except that human nature being what it is, the weeds would poke through the concrete eventually. No matter the disinfectant used, the soil would break through. Only when all is light and heat will the evil perish; the sun is god.
As a further kick in the teeth, it does not take a leap of the imagination to picture one's own government - indeed, one's God - viewing its domain with the same uncaring gaze as the player of SimCity. Each of the specks that represents a traffic jam must represent a thousand people - they live their lives and die in an instant, mattering not a jot to the authorities, and are buried in graveyards which are in turn built over and erased by the shifting city. 'Beneath the pavement, a beach' - and beneath the beach, thousands of corpses, a hundred miles of granite and iron and a hellish inferno. Each of us is a city, with beaches and iron and granite, and our souls are on fire.
As with us all SimCity was eventually made obsolete, with the next generation 'SimCity 2000', which could do all that Sim City could do and more, with nicer graphics and a lady saying 'reticulating splines'.
SimCity was inspired heavily by the works of Jay W. Forrester at MIT; a commercial gamble, the game was a huge hit, heralding a new genre - the 'Software Toy' - that, despite the best efforts of Maxis, failed to materialise. 'Sim Ant', 'Sim Tower' and othet 'Sim' titles came and went, bankrolled by sequels to SimCity, before Maxis struck even more gold with 'The Sims'.
In Europe SimCity was sold as Sim City, with a space, the reasons for which are no doubt lost in the mists of time.