This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee compares Sim City to Nazi Germany.
It's an idea that many people seem to latch onto, that if you were created by some kind of god, then obviously he did it because he loves us so huggy-muggy-much. Never are the holes in this theory more obvious than while playing god games, because it seems that when you place most people in the position of a god and give them responsibility over many tiny lesser beings, then their attitude towards them is usually less about beloved children and more about target practice. SimCity Societies may, on the other hand, support the benevolent god argument, because if being God is this boring, then unconditional love is the only reason I can think of for not having slaughtered the whole unstimulating lot of us around the time we were still squeezing our own smallpox boils for nourishment.
I haven't played a SimCity game since the very first SimCity on the Amiga, which I was never any good at. I remember wondering why no one ever wanted to live in the nice houses I'd built next to the nuclear power station. It made sense to me, it would mean the electricity wouldn't have to travel so far and as such would be less tired and more efficient. I also had difficulty grasping the notion that further away buildings had to be connected to the power station with wires. I just assumed that the little flashing lightning-bolt icon meant that the people in the house were listening to AC/DC.
The gist of SimCity Societies is that the emphasis is on the actual people in the city. First, you have to build places for them to live, but no one will actually move into them until you build four or five statues or fountains around the place, the fussy plebs. Then you build places for them to work, day in, day out. Then you build entertainment venues to stop them realizing that their lives are a never-ending monotony in a walled-off bubble society run by an omnipotent cretin. Then you wait for the game to arbitrarily throw up some more money for you to do it all again.
There's a degree of customization in that you could buy specific buildings that reflect a society based around capitalism, authority, art, scientific learning, existentialism, jam making, nose picking. But all you really need to worry about is making sure that the number of people is as close as possible to the number of jobs and that you plonk down a new cake shop every now and again to stop them moaning.
Don't feel pressured though, they're not exactly difficult to please. I set out to make a brutal, authoritarian dictatorship because it makes my balls feel big. So all my workplaces were things like thought police headquarters and all the venues were propaganda theaters, and most of the gormless fuckers were still content or elated. Christ, this must be how Nazi Germany started! The only time the average mood dipped was when I had a major criminal infestation which I traced to some slum housing I've included for the authentic downtrodden feel. But the problem was instantly fixed by demolishing them and building some more state housing projects which my citizens thankfully tolerated enough to not turn into serial murderers.
I suppose the clinching flaw in this game that revolves around keeping people happy is that the people provoke empathy in the same way Jeremy Clarkson provokes animalistic lust. When you're building stuff (and you're never not building stuff.), you remain levitating about a hundred feet above the ground, smacking down your big housing project rubber stamps. So for the most part, the actual people are little scrabbling insects, a tiresome and unnecessary addition to my beautiful homes, like the mildew in the showers.
This isn't like The Sims, where you can zoom in far enough to see the tears roll down their faces every time you delete all the toilets. There isn't enough feedback to let you know you're doing your job properly. And when you aren't doing your job properly, like, say for example, at the point when you start tormenting them for giggles, there's no satisfaction to be had there, either. But even when your city is a hotbed of misery, there's very little consequence, nothing like a halfway decent mass ritualistic suicide, nor is there any significant reward for doing well. All you ever do is build more and more crap over the surrounding countryside, and with no real motivation for doing so unless you have a grudge against trees.
Frequently, it doesn't even matter where you build your crap. Okay, it's still a bad idea to build schools next to the pedophile training center. But you can place statues and other decorating in a cave on the fucking moon and it still somehow cheers everyone up. It's like “baby's first SimCity”, with all the strategy reduced to that of a crossword with only two clues that someone else already filled in.
Ultimately, you could have an equally fulfilling time just drawing a city in MS Paint. That way, you don't have to spend sixty bucks and you can get additional entertainment by drawing all the buildings with tits.
Built this city on rock and roll: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
No disrespect intended towards Hillary Clinton except in this last bit where I say that she looks like an otter chewing on an electric fence
Don't ask me anything this week because I probably hate you
(A series of Team Fortress 2 stills tells the love story of a Heavy and a Medic. Then the Medic is killed by a Spy, leaving the Heavy to mourn. The ending shows the Heavy placing his knife alongside the Medic's tombstone and walking away. An instrumental version of "Up Where We Belong" plays throughout)