SimCity 3000. Electronic Arts and Maxis.
Reviewed by Matt T. Rosenberg
Published on H-Urban (April, 1999)
The third version of the immensely popular <cite>SimCity</cite> computer simulation game is not just a fun computer game, it is also a useful tool for teaching urban development and issues. <p> In <cite>SimCity 3000</cite>, the individual playing the game is the "mayor" of their virtual city. The game begins with a barren swath of land which must be transformed into an urban environment. In this simulation, the mayor makes all decisions related to road construction, zoning, the placement of power plants, fire stations, police stations, hospitals, schools, parks, water pumps, and many other civic features. The game simulates elapsed time, visible through a month and year clock on the status bar. There's no winning SimCity, it's just a matter of developing your city to its outer limit of the available land and creating the best city possible. However, you can "lose" your city through catastrophe or mismanaged budgeting that makes your population (called "Sims" in the game) flee for greener pastures. <p> As mayor, it's your job to build the city. Bringing residences and commerce and industry to your city requires zoning appropriate amounts of land for each type of land use. Zoning costs money from the city budget, but once parcels are zoned and supplied with power from power plants and water from pumping station, homes and businesses will begin to blossom automatically (as long as demand is sufficient). Improved properties pay taxes and, of course, the higher the land value the more taxes you collect. If your city's land value is high enough, skyscrapers will become a prominent feature. But if you make your Sims unhappy, buildings will become vacant and run-down. <p> As the game progresses, the citizens will demand more public services. Sims will ask for schools, libraries, and museums to improve education, airports to improve commerce, seaports to improve industry, stadiums to improve morale and housing values. Mayors can also choose from several transportation options from plain old roads to subways to busses to railroads which move the Sims around town (Sims are notorious for complaining about traffic problems). Additionally, as you reach certain milestones of city growth, you'll be granted certain "rewards" to build and proudly display in your city such as statues, a city hall, a mayoral mansion. <p> The mayor is constrained in his city planning visions by budgetary restraints. Each new public service creates added annual expenses. Since this money comes out of the city's coffers you may choose to raise taxes on your Sims, which, if you are not careful, could cause your Sims to vote with their feet and move away. It is the mayor's job to build the infrastructure and amenities that will encourage Sims to move in. <p> As your SimCity grows, residents will bring their grievances or suggestions to you, the mayor, requesting that ordinances be passed (which often cost precious funds) or that new services be provided (such as a new marina or zoo). In addition, the mayor will frequently hear recommendations from city department heads related to their areas of expertise. As with prior versions of the game, the modeling of traffic, pollution, and crime are quite advanced. Let any of these three areas deteriorate and the Sims will complain vociferously. <p> Disasters are the scourge of the game. To prevent your city from burning to the ground, you'll need to ensure that your fire department's coverage of the city is adequate (you can monitor your city's development through a variety of maps--one of these is a flammability map that shows fire department power along with the fire hazard for various areas). Your SimCity may also fall prey to tornadoes, floods, earthquakes (the sound of cats meowing loudly could provide ample warning), and yes, even UFO attacks --for each of these disasters activation of your city's emergency siren can reduce death and destruction. Each disaster will cost funds and require an extensive clean-up effort though redundancy of support systems and infrastructure along with good urban planning can reduce losses. <p> Those familiar with prior versions of the game will appreciate many of the new advances in this third version. To name a few, mayors are responsible for creating waste disposal facilities such as landfills and recycling plants, the input of the constituent Sims is much greater, and there are increased opportunities to improve revenue through a variety of business deals with developers and neighboring cities. If you've used the prior versions of <cite>SimCity Classic</cite> or <cite>SimCity 2000</cite>, you'll definitely want to upgrade to 3000, for the graphics, the details, and the real-life look and feel have been greatly enhanced and are absolutely fantastic. In this latest version, your staff and constituents provide a great deal more input--news and announcements arrive via a news ticker that scrolls across the bottom of the screen, a big improvement on the irregular "newspapers" of prior versions. <p> It is my feeling that <cite>SimCity 3000</cite> is an interesting and entertaining resource to help teach students about the dynamics of urban development. The program would work well as a "lab" activity in any sort of urban studies course, from urban history to planning to urban geography. Students could be assigned one of the many scenario or sample cities and asked to develop it to a certain point. Alternatively, instructors can create a template city with all sorts of urban problems for students to repair. Five minutes of orientation to the program should allow most PC-familiar students to jump right in and build (the program is icon- and graphic-based). While commonly thought of as pure entertainment, <cite>SimCity 3000</cite> can and will teach students of urban studies valuable lessons about city growth and decision-making. Should they agree to legalize gambling and build a casino in order to reap the financial benefits that go along with such an agreement? <p> Students will probably become addicted but they're guaranteed to learn a lot from the real life-type models and scenarios in <cite>SimCity 3000</cite> (well, maybe except the part about UFO attacks ;-) <p>
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Matt T. Rosenberg. Review of , SimCity 3000.
H-Urban, H-Net Reviews.
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