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View Diary: Governance Lessons from SimCity 2000 (39 comments)

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  •  Contrary viewpoint: SC2k is a mediocre model (5+ / 0-)

    The SimCity series, though entertaining, represent mediocre modeling simulations at best.  I know several academics who have dedicated their lives to applied simulations, some of whom consulted on the earlier incarnations in this series.  (The forthcoming SimCity 2013 takes a step in an interesting direction as it replaces stochastic traffic with actual agency.  But I'd say it's safe to bet there are all sorts of artificial bounds and limits placed upon those agents to keep them and the game behaving "as advertised"!)

    And uniformly the perception was that Will Wright pretty much ignored any suggestions and examples they provided that permitted both complex and emergent behaviours.  Ultimately, the Sim games are explicit simulations, the results of extended runs being preordained from the beginning.

    Computer driven simulations capable of exhibiting arguably emergent behavior (emergent in the systems theory sense of the word, not vernacular) have been around since the mid 1980's.  Though Wright championed emergence in the vernacular since, commercial projects he directed eschewed it behind the scenes.

    Perhaps his motivations were with good reason as he was first and foremost creating an entertainment product.  True emergence allows for discovery and prediction.  Explicit simulations on the other hand at best convey the biases which bound them.  To see such biases, one need look no further than the rather unscientific concept of infinite growth which is absolutely axiomatic to the gameplay and implied "win conditions" of every entry in the entire city building genre, not just SimCity.

    All that being said, SimCity does remain a landmark piece of gaming history.  Like Yoda leading many a preteen to seriously consider philosophy for the first time, there's nothing wrong if playing this game stirred young minds and inspired deeper, further inquiries as those minds matured.  But I do see something wrong with giving the SC series any of the deference reserved for true scientific modeling.

    •  It's also a game for all ages (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brooklyn Jim, beav

      How complex do you want it to be? The new one is certainly the most complex yet:

      The Civilization games are pretty complex, too.

      I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

      by CFAmick on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 09:28:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Would be interesting (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beav, billyleeblack16

        to see a Civ game with resource/soil depletion as a major component. I think the games get it right in terms of how having resources/not having them can lead to huge strategic imbalances, but all empires collapse- and I've yet to see a game that incorporates this dynamic well.

        Small varmints, if you will.

        by aztecraingod on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 09:33:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Don't confuse complicated with complexity (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        old wobbly

        Sand streaming out of a child's toy, turning a paddle wheel and then piling up below exhibits all sorts of complex behavior.  An unfortunate semantic reality has those two words adjacent to each other but they have significantly distinct meanings which just perpetuates misunderstandings about what constitutes complexity.

        Minecraft is one of a very few games that, IMO, actually embraces some degree of true complexity and emergence as exhibited by its "redstone circuitry" features.

        IMO it's extremely difficult (emotionally, intellectually and financially) for game designers, especially those working for major publishers, to surrender authorship to the degree that truly complex simulations/models/digital toys often demand.  As an author or designer, you quickly lose control of the system you created as players and community end up discovering strategies for win conditions (or amusement) that often defy or break the original intent, immersion and genre constraints you initially hoped would help define your game.  Often these game changing/breaking discoveries and strategies are deemed as exploits and coded against explicitly.

        •  I'm lost. The diarist seemed to say that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Risen Tree

          SC2K was illustrative of some general principles we know to be the foundation for a well functioning economic system.

          What is this 'emergent' behavior you are saying is so important, and what's the connection between it and a well-functioning economic system?

          Or: Are you just saying it could have been a much more interesting and groundbreaking videogame if it were less strictly constrained?

          If you want a discussion, please stick to arguing the point. If you wanted something else...please exit the vehicle.

          by robizio on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 10:00:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  SC2k simply shows foregone conclusions of devs (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Arctic Belle, viral

            The problem with explicit simulations is they only illustrate what the developers have accepted as foregone conclusions.  Further up in the comments someone joked that "SC2k has a liberal bias."  In a sense, it sort of does.  As well as having industrio-capital biases.

            And with an explicit simulation all this does is show that the authors believe those biases entirely.  They have tailored this environment to respond to the strategies they feel appropriately capture running and managing a city (or in the case of SC4 any old region of managed settled land) as they understand it to work.

            The hazard with celebrating an explicit simulation like SC2k as a demonstration of any given things, such as the failure of austerity fails is this: someone else, with a different set of biases, could come and tailor a similar entertainment product that responds most favorably to neo-liberal economic strategies.  "See!  Ayn Rand-landia shows that austerity works!"

            Look, I think games are great.  I think play is an essential part of human cognition and learning.  I think both offer opportunity for personal discovery, inspiration and deep fostering of interests that can carry people through all sorts of productive and beneficial careers.  But when you start looking to games as a primary source of scientific evidence--you say "illustration" but from the tone of the diary I get more "demonstration"--you need to hold the guts underlying the game to a higher level of scrutiny.  Otherwise you risk looking as silly as Herman Cain and his 9-9-9 plan.

    •  SC2 has components of realism (0+ / 0-)

      It wasn't designed to be a full-fledged simulator--hell, even the most complex computer models built today to simulate city behavior can't even come close to full realism. For example, it wasn't until SC4 that you were even allowed to build on a hillside, and just now in SC5 can roads and lots look realistically-shaped. And then there's the whole issue, as one other person noted, of basically being the dictator-for-life of your city.

      But there are still lessons to be learned, some of which I covered in the OP.

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