I played SimCity 2000 to death as a kid. I remember spending one glorious summer continually building city after city. Meticulously layout out every detail from the terrain to the transportation and zoning. That endearing jazz music always playing in the background. Having to quit playing because dinner was ready. Call it a waste of time if you want, but that summer I learned more about city planning and design that I could ever learn in a semester of school. And I couldn’t have had more fun doing it.
Recently at a Game Developers Conference presentation, Maxis announced that a new SimCity is in the works. While details are sketchy at best, Scientific American has provided the answer to my most-pressing concern:
Many critics have complained in the past that rigid zoning standards in previous versions forced them into a “California” model of urban development — sprawling suburbs revolving around a central commercial district — which in turn forces residents to make long, traffic-clogged commutes. The game’s architects say they are working with an unidentified “green” developer to integrate cutting-edge sustainable design principles into the new game, ensuring that, if players want to build a net-energy-neutral city, it will be possible to do so. Public transportation, bike-only streets and energy-efficient building codes will all be at players’ disposal, they say.
The SimCity I grew up playing was fantastic in almost every way, but it was stuck in a suburban model of development, as if that was the only way to build a city. Later in life, I learned that this is perhaps the worst way to build a city. It is unsustainable, keeping us separated from other people and in our cars longer, not to mention the environmental factors. Public transportation never mattered in previous versions of SimCity. There were no mixed-use zoning options. Nothing to quell car-dependency. I can’t wait to experiment with these new options when the game is released next year. Perhaps it will cultivate a new generation of city planners who design cities for human beings instead of cars.