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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #73: SimCity

There are lots of iterations of SimCity out there, and I've played most of them. From the blocky, black-and-white rudiments on the early-1990s Macs to the sleeker, far more in-depth later versions. And no, I was never the type to build up my polis simply for the carnal pleasures of destroying them with monsters or robots or bad weather. I luxuriated in the careful planning of my cities, considering where best to place light commercial zones close to public transit where workers would have easy commutes to their well-watered, well-powered residential districts close to good schools, parks, libraries, and other amenities. My police departments were staffed with trained, civic-minded officers and my highway crews were brisk and clean and polite. I was Leslie Knope at the keyboard, a community-building dork in the making.

So yeah, I liked building my cities. I liked balancing the budgets and providing good lives for my citizens. So much so that I eventually earned my master's degree in Public Administration and spent more than fifteen years on local select boards trying to bring similar visions to life out here in the real word. The problem? Voters in the game were rational creatures. If they saw the value in public investments, they happily paid their tax bills and reaped the rewards. Out here in the "real" world, voters are rarely rational actors. Their choices at the ballot box or in town meetings are often fueled by disinformation, misplaced anger, and the cultivated rancor of national division that should have no place in our local communities.

If I've learned anything from my years in local office, it's this: maybe it's time for the monsters after all.

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