SimCity launched on Oct. 3, 1989.
It's 25-years-old today.
I loved that game.
Will Wright made it. Cleverest bloke working in games.
You build cities. They are yours.
You drop city blocks into place and connect them and sometimes they work great and sometimes they don't.
The cleverness lies in how the connectivity of the blocks is scored by human behavior.
So, it's not about how many levels you beat or how many monsters you slay. It's about how smart you have been in creating utility.
The city blocks require servicing, with police stations and schools and such. You feed the streets. It's like a pet.
I was working on a computer magazine when it came out. I played it at work, during lunch hours, after work.
It wasn't a game you played to pass the time; it was a game you found time to play.
We had Macs. I played it in monochrome.
1989 was a good year for smart games made by smart people. Tetris. Populous. Prince of Persia. Herzog Zwei.
I liked to think about the little people going about my city, the busy streets.
We've had a lot of great games, made by people who understood how games work, but this one was a great game made by someone who understood how the world works.
It's impossible to play SimCity for the first time and come away dumber than you were before.
After SimCity there were The Sims and there were other SimCity games, and they made a bunch of people happy and they made a lot of money, but I liked the first one the best.
I liked dragging my mouse along and making railway lines and connecting them all together.
Wright made the game after reading a short story about an engineer who helps a deposed tyrant by creating a simulated environment for him to bully. This reveals a deep truth about our relationship with video games
Also, I like it when games are inspired by obscure books, rather than merely by big-selling games or by blockbuster action movies.
When he was making it, Wright became obsessed by the science of urban planning. Most of our passing obsessions are mundane and sad. But I feel like a Will Wright obsession about anything instantly makes that thing a lot more interesting.
In SimCity there are disasters, random things that go wrong. I didn't like this part of the game. I might be remembering this wrong, but I think you could turn them off, and I did.
The game was political in ways that are sensible. Spending tax money on efficient city transit systems is good for everyone. Skimping on essential services like hospitals is harmful. A lot of people still do not understand these things.
SimCity wasn't just a fun game; it wasn't just a clever game. It was important. It uttered something about how a game could say something valuable, and really mean it.
Put it this way. On your gravestone, would you rather it said you'd given the world a SimCity, or a Grand Theft Auto?