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Archive for October 13th, 2007

coal smoke and scary statues

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From the boilerplate describing the newest entry in the SimCity series of games, SimCity Societies

Shape your city through its values and priorities.

More than just a city-building simulator, SimCity Societies puts you in the new role of social engineer. Mix and match six “social energies”—productivity, prosperity, creativity, spirituality, authority, and knowledge—to determine the core attributes that will be reflected in the infrastructure of your city as well as in its people. After you plant these seeds you’ll witness the evolution of your city as everything from its physical appearance to the sounds heard on its streets adapt to reflect these values

Well, at least we know what “social energies” are on the table and which are off. But never fear, commies, while “Vertovian Wonderland” doesn’t seem to be an option in version 1.0, you do still have the ability to construct what is repeatedly called an “Orwellian City.”

Another world is possible, I guess. Precociously ostalgic eleven-year olds, you have nothing to lose but your windfarms!

All this reminds me of something that I might well have posted before, but I can’t help rerunning. It’s a paragraph from Steven Berlin Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You.

Several years ago I found myself on a family vacation with my seven-year-old nephew, and on one rainy day I decided to introduce him to the wonders of SimCity 2000, the legenday city simulator that allows you to play Robert Moses to a growing virtual metropolis. For most of our session, I was controlling the game, pointing out landmarks as I scrolled around my little town. I suspect I was a somewhat condescending guide – treating the virtual world as more of a model train layout than a complex system. But he was picking up the game’s inner logic nonetheless. After about an hour of tinkering, I was concentrating on trying to revive one particularly run-down manufacturing district. As I contemplated my options, my nephew piped up: “I think we need to lower our industrial tax rates.” He said it as naturally, and as confidently, as he might have said, “I think we need to shoot the bad guy.”

I wish I could believe that Johnson knew how hilarious the last two lines are, but I’m afraid not. They are as inadvertantly ironic as the title of the book in which we find them.

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October 13, 2007 at 12:13 am