SimCity Returns with 4th Edition … but are the Socialists Gone?

I’ll admit it. I’m a SimCity addict. I played the original game far too much in college, kidding myself that I could study and raise Atomic City to new heights. SimCity 2000 was more of a good thing, giving players the ability to alter the local economy, implement ordinances, build on multi-level terrain, and even landmarks.

I used both games as a sort of ad hoc city designer for my role-playing games, creating nicely detailed versions of my home city of Obsidian Bay. When SimCity 3000 came along, I wanted to plunge deep into obsession all over again.

I wanted to … but didn’t. Part of it was that I was more ideologically aware than I was in college, which made the bigger part all that more troubling: the game had taken a decidedly leftist turn, truly believing that big government knows best. Now this is a God game — you’re creating a world damn it, and you should be able to impose whatever laws you want.

But why should those laws have the effects you expect? SimCity’s grab bag of social programs never had a single negative effect, save the ever-growing strain on your budget. Yet — despite a few thousand years of evidence to the contrary — you couldn’t grow your city without these programs. A better approach would have been to design the game with varying political underpinnings — instead of just choosing “easy”, “moderate” or “hard” difficulties you could pick “libertarian”, “conservative”, “liberal” or “communist”, with the game’s mechanics being driven by a different set of assumptions for each philosophy. Hell, I’d tolerate a game that pretended communism worked (it is, after all, only a game) if I can work some laissez faire magic on my own metropolis.

That would have been cool. But alas, they didn’t do that. Not only that, but they ditched a lot of the cool complexity from SimCity 2000 — like varying taxes for different industries and the ability to name districts — in favor of a dumbed-down interface and heavy-handed dogma. Sure, there were a few cool additions, like the ability to attract special city improvements like Air Force bases and Toxic Dumps, but the rampant capitalism of The Sims (excepting, of course, it’s car-pooling fetish) was missing.

SimCity 4 is now on its way, and I can help but be a little excited. But only a little — it’s doubtful that my computer will be able to run it, and I remember all too well my disappointment with SC3K. But I am interested. The new buildings look great, and from what I read on the site, it sounds like the game’s designers are trying to make it a more advanced game than the earlier versions, which could be a good thing. There’s also the rampant success of The Sims, which will hopefully inject a little capitalist excitement into SC3K’s tired old dogma.

The game is due out later this year. You can check out it for yourself by visiting it’s official home page: