I’ve been playing SimCity for the better part of what I can remember from my youth, almost 20 years from my estimation. I continue to play it as an adult and I don’t foresee any reason I would stop playing it. It has shaped my life, given me an understanding of our society, a grasp of how it all links together in an unavoidable manner. It has shown me basic principals of supply and demand, consequences of taxation or lack of taxation, what happens when there is no law and order and most importantly it has shown me that there is no one right way in producing a prosperous society, just a right way to care for people of the society. A game, like SimCity, doesn’t come along very often. It takes years and years to develop something as massive and as comprehensive as SimCity. Case in point, EA is releasing SimCity 5 on March 5, almost 10 years after the release of SimCity 4. I imagine it has taken a small army of developers, creatives, executives and passionate and committed family members to create this new experience. As this release looms and the SimCity folks get there wallets ready, I think as a society, we are missing a huge opportunity to use this as a vehicle for education and exposure of how our world works and specifically governments function within it.

SimCity can and does provide at least some basic understanding of how this whole modern society gets put together and held together. However, at it’s most basic, SimCity is just a simulation where the designers have given us, the players, tools and parts to manipulate the outcome of the simulation. There is no start, no end, just guidelines and boundaries. Everything else is left to the player: tax rates, zoning code, building scale, transportation, water, power, amenities… and this is where I think we can expose more of how our country and our world work. Obviously, SimCity is not a perfect example of all the problems we face as a society, but it certainly explains the basics and why we need them and how we pay for them.

The Problem

Many of the problems and differences in our government today, really don’t seem like the two sides are even talking about the same thing. I think this is a result of two very different and almost devoid lifestyles that seem to exist in America. Those who understand government and it’s function and those who do not. I don’t think this is a lack of education just a lack of exposure. The media frames this as a red and blue thing or Republican vs Democrat battle. I tend to just see folks who are either completely self-interested, folks who understand why the government would make a decision, and folks who do not have enough exposure to government to even know, they don’t know. I call this the ‘devoid participant’. We have many of them. Folks who participate in voting but whom only follow what they enjoy or believe in, never really making an objective assessment as to what it is they are voting on or opining on. These are your friends, your family, your mom, your brother, your co-workers, your mechanic, musicians, electricians, business magnates, scientists and everyone in-between.

Recently, many of these folks have begun to demonize the American government as a service to the people. “Government spends to much” is something I hear a lot. So I ask, “spends to much on what?” Defense is an obvious target but after that what specific item is the government wastefully throwing money away at? Or more so, where do you want to see money pulled away from? Your grandparents, your kids, education? I don’t know many as I can usually see the long term benefit of whatever it is the government is spending money on. I realize the military is behaving slightly less then democratically a lot of the time and that individuals can certainly corrupt this system but this is a constant work in progress. And number one for America, the government is not the enemy, at least not at this juncture. As a democratic society, we elect and basically volunteer to serve for our communities. The American democracy is meant to democratize access and attainability to information. It’s meant to provide the ability for an individual, if they so desire, to become educated, successful and prosperous. We lift people up. They come here not because of how much money they can make, although it doesn’t hurt, they come because America provides hope in a world filled with despair and abuse. They are free to choose their own path here. And it is unacceptable that any of these folks whether dirt poor or a 1%, to not understand how our government works and its purpose to our society.

Ive included some screenshots of my cities from SimCity 4 to show the level of complexity that can accomplished in the game.

basiola region

Satellite View

basiola transportation

Transportation View

basiola cbd

Downtown CBD closeup

I think many of these partisan government battles could be defused if both sides had a clear understanding of the function of the private world and the government world. It doesn’t need to be a lot of extra effort. Include it as freetime in elementary school. Include it as an extra project in middle and high school. This is a marketable game that people play on their own already. Just exposing people to SimCity will help facilitate how and why a road might cost this, or why on the other side of town they had to install some new bus stop? At the very least, it will show you that cutting taxes does nothing more then cut taxes.

I’ll leave you with a quote…

Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’
-Isaac Asimov