Home Editorial Why I already know I’ll suck at the new SimCity

Let me get this out of the way: I’m not any good at SimCity.

I sucked at SimCity on the SNES, and I sucked at SimCity 2000 on my PC. I sucked at SimCity 2000 on my PocketPC (yes, I owned one) before sucking at SimCity 3000 and SimCity 4 on PC again. I sucked at Sim Tower and Sim Ants.

Hell, I pretty much avoided the whole Sims franchise out of fear that my creations in that simulation could actually judge me for sucking. Every time I picked up a Sims box, I envisioned angry digital denizens pissing themselves and blaming me. I tried to leave it all behind, but then  this trailer just had to come out:

 

If at first you don’t succeed

Despite being the failed mayor of dozens, if not hundreds, of virtual cities, Maxis’ popular series always draws me in. Why? What is it about SimCity that has so often led me, falsely, to believe this time it’ll be different? Upon reflection, I believe it all boils down to one insidious constant.

 

Playing the odds

Unlike most action-oriented games, SimCity doesn’t have an antagonist, a Big Bad who’s out to do you in. Sure, you might encounter the occasional monster or earthquake, but failure often has no face or name.

Of course, that’s because the player himself is the antagonist. Or, more precisely, the player’s poor decisions are what bring about the death and misery of millions of Sims. But because the self-absorbed sap in the Mayor’s chair (me) can never admit his own mistakes, the game feels random. Winning and losing doesn’t seem tied to a particular route the way dying to M. Bison does. It’s just a bunch of fun, followed by escalating problems that lead to nearly unforeseen failure.Sound familiar?

It’s called a fucking gambling addiction.

There’s virtual money. There are calculated risks. There are safe, slow investments (like transportation) as well as high-risk, high-reward options (taking out a loan to build a pollution-spewing Arco). Hell, there’s even a panel of virtual yes-men (and women) to tell you you’re doing a good job… as long as you’re lining their pockets.

But in the end, the average SimCity gamer doesn’t stand a Sim’s chance in a ladderless pool.Because without a strategy guide or a solid understanding of the game’s mechanics, players like me are basically just guessing their way through every decision. And while I’d like to think I’m a pretty smart individual, the reality is I don’t have a degree in city planning, politics, economics, sociology, electrical engineering, or even goddamn plumbing.I’m just a dumbass nerd playing god.

 

Terrible implications

I recall that Einstein said something about God not playing dice with the universe, but Albert never lived in one of my SimDisasterZones. He hasn’t experienced the horror of watching major highways collapse during rush hour or hearing planes crashing into the skyscrapers that were zoned directly in the path of their runways. He hasn’t resided in a city with a mayor who pays off loans with more loans. He doesn’t know what it’s like to live in a town where the most common boy’s name is Zeke and the most common occupation is also Zeke.

Somewhere, somewhere in one of my cities, there may have been a single Sim of Einsteinian intellect. And if she ever did wax philosophical on the nature of the universe, I assure you she would not have agreed with her real life counterpart. In fact, I can guarantee her most famous quote would be something like this:

God does indeed play dice with the universe. And it’s about time we held an intervention.

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