SimCity’s Impact and Evolution

The video game has inspired many people to pursue careers in planning. But, the newest version is also trying to better align the simulations with what planners face in the real world.
March 7, 2019, 2pm PST | Camille Fink
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Norman Chan

Jessica Roy writes about the history and influence of SimCity, the urban planning simulation game first released in 1989:

For many urban and transit planners, architects, government officials and activists, "SimCity" was their first taste of running a city. It was the first time they realized that neighborhoods, towns and cities were things that were planned, and that it was someone's job to decide where streets, schools, bus stops and stores were supposed to go.

While SimCity lead many planners into the field, the game has been criticized for creating worlds that do not reflect reality. The cities do not have bike lanes or mixed-use developments and, in the past, did not have parking. In addition, the options and solutions are oversimplified, say critics. "To lower crime rates, build police stations. If people complain about traffic, build more roads. If you need space to build a freeway or a stadium, raze working-class neighborhoods," says Roy.

The most recent iteration, an app called "SimCity: BuildIt" released in 2014, tries to address some of the limitations of earlier versions. The architecture and topography are more diverse, and some of the buildings include visible parking. "You can play a 'Green City' map in which residents have urban gardens and there's less pollution. Solar power is now an option," notes Roy.

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Published on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in Los Angeles Times
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