The depressing suburbanisation of SimCity

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This is my second link to Alex Hearn over at the New Statesman. This one is his take on the new Sim City game, which has had a bit of a disastrous launch, with long waiting times to log in due to its rather constraining insistence on all players being connected to the internet all the time.

Truly, life was simpler before the internet. The operating system took up a fraction of the hard drive space it does now, and you weren’t constantly interrupted.

Sim City has always been interesting because of the way it encourages players to run their city in terms of taxes and public services. There was no taxing the rich until the pips squeak. Here is Hearn complaining about the suburbanisation of the game:

The most obvious is the one common to all the games in the series. SimCity has no truck with market urbanists, those who argue that the best way to develop a city is for the state to provide a few basics, like roads and power, but then let the free market take over. Those urban planners argue that, rather than dictating whether a particular area be used for offices, houses, retail or industry, the options should be available for any of them; the natural tendency will be for offices and houses to clump together, but if someone wants to pay the inflated land costs in a central business district to build housing, they shouldn’t be prevented from doing so.

In SimCity, of course, one of the few constants in the series is the existence of zoning laws. As mayor, you have to dictate whether particular land can be used for residential, commercial or industrial purposes, and only then does the “free market” kick in.

Similarly, almost all municipal buildings in the game are placed by the player, and run by the state at a cost to the taxpayer. Every Sim gets universal healthcare, and all private schools are banned! Truly, SimLand is a lefty utopia.

Read the rest: The depressing suburbanisation of SimCity.

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