Sim Struggles

The allure of video games is beyond my comprehension. That may be because I’ve never had an interest in playing them. I’ll admit that I might get hooked if I permitted myself to spend time on a game console. But when I’ve been presented with the opportunity to play, I’ve always found something I’d rather do. Until now. Maybe still. But there’s one old video game that I’ve long wanted to explore and I learned this morning that it’s alive and well and into its umpteenth iteration (it was first published in 1989). It’s SimCity. You’ve almost certainly heard of it and may have played it.

As I understand SimCity, it’s a simulation/strategy game that allows players to create imaginary cities from the ground up. Players decide the types of industry their cities will allow and establishing zoning to restrict (or permit) those industries in certain areas of the city. Levels of taxation, environmental regulations, tourism options…the list of areas over which players have control is stunning. In one sense, I think the idea behind the game is absurd; it’s a time-waster of extraordinary proportions. But in another, the game could be extremely educational.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an intense interest in urban planning. I considered  the discipline as a career as one point (maybe several points) but decided for various reasons not to pursue it. My interest, though, has remained.

Today, though, my interest is not in creating and molding and shaping and coaxing a city into existence. Instead, I’m interested in creating and molding and shaping and coaxing a small, declining town on a path toward either extinction or rebirth. I’m not sure SimCity would be of use to me, though. I’m not sure whether the game would be helpful to me as I envision the effects that actions taken by characters in my story would have on my little town.

I’ve incorporated my fictional town into a few stories I’ve already written. To date, though, they have been simple vignettes. Now, I have in mind a much longer story that follows my protagonist, Calypso Kneeblood, as he copes with the decline of the town in which he lives, the tiny businesses he runs, and the lives of the people with whom he interacts. Perhaps SimCity would allow me to create backstory about Struggles, Arkansas. I don’t know, though. I’ve done only cursory research about what the nuts and bolts of the game, so I am not sufficiently familiar with the degree to which I might use the game to model my little town.

Given that my story is character-based, versus action-based, it’s possible that a simulation game would prove utterly useless. I’ve never before used a crutch to aid my writing. But I might give SimCity a try, regardless of whether I use it in connection with my story. I might even incorporate the game into my story. Calypso Kneeblood, who runs the Fourth Estate Tavern and Struggles Brewery, could conduct SimCity simulations in an effort to determine the likelihood that sales of the brewery’s Desolation Stout would be adequate to warrant having the product bottle (or canned). But I doubt the game goes into that level of detail. But maybe. I’ll explore what’s involved in buying or otherwise getting access to SimCity. But not today.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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