This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.

Sim City

"Sim City: 3000"
Electronic Arts Inc.

"Sim City" is the pioneer of simulation games that became widely available back in the 1980s. The premise is that the player is a mayor who uses zoning powers to control the growth of cities. MIM favors games such as Sim City, even when the assumptions of the simulations are completely bourgeois, because among existing games that the mostly imperialist country people play, the mindless militarist games are the worst of all. "Sim City" has no sex or violence displayed and yet it can entertain for weeks on end. That is an accomplishment by itself. It's not hard to see how tweaking this game slightly would make it progressive.

The first thing to point out about this version of the game is that the introduction sports a flying saucer landing on earth and the year mentioned in the title is "3000," but there is no science-fiction element. Even in the year 3000, "Sim City" plays the same way as in 2100.

Attractive artistic elements available in the game include depictions of the world's largest and most famous city buildings. Players may place buildings ranging from the World Trade Center to various art museums.

"Sim City" has completely bourgeois assumptions, which is why it is not MIM's favorite economic strategy game. The mayor has the power to set tax rates and this influences the level of development. There is no option to nationalize factories. The whole assumption of the game is that private enterprise will create everything in the zones legally established by the mayor.

"Sim City" as such is about the world from the urban administration's point of view in a capitalist city. Cities compete and cooperate with each other. People who believe the mayor set taxes too high may leave the city. "Sim City" tracks population, tax revenue and expenditures. In this particular version of "Sim City," the mayor has a few more political options than in previous games. For example, s/he may opt to spend the city's money on becoming a "nuclear-free zone," which advertises that a city has no nuclear plants or weapons. Advisors to the mayor explain their opinions of the impact of each of the mayor's decisions. Mayors will necessarily have to ignore citizens and advisors from time to time. Earlier versions of the game had especially dim views of the intelligence of city residents. The 3000 edition continues that tradition with stereotypically stupid looking people petitioning the mayor for their idiotic causes.

The Sim City economy may go through cycles including crises which reduce the population and destroy city government revenue, but the explanation for that is not Marx's labor theory of value. What class struggle appears is actually within the government, with police, fire and mass transit workers occasionally going on strike--what Marx called the unproductive sector.

It's important to understand that although this is a simulation game, it is not boring in the sense that everything is predetermined. The designers created "Sim City," so that the management skills of the mayor would matter. Also important are the matters concerning taste that a mayor may have. How much of the land will be forest or parks and what sort of industries receive tax breaks is within the power of the "Sim City" mayor.

When we buy a movie video and play it on our VCRs, we are playing back a tape that is fixed and predetermined. An example would be the "Matrix," the blockbuster Hollywood movie. Popping "Sim City" into one's computer is not like playing the "Matrix" on video, because the details in "Sim City" are not predetermined. However, the most important substance of "Sim City" is set by the game designer.

An example of the importance of the game designer's analyses or opinions is the mayor's choice to build police stations. In actual fact in the capitalist world, having more or fewer police stations does not affect the crime rate, but in "Sim City 3000," police hiring levels affect the crime rate and thus property values. This is an example why it is important for Maoists also to write computer games. Propaganda and conventional wisdom say that police exist to reduce crime instead of perpetrating it. The truth that there is no effect of police hiring or budget levels on crime is difficult for the public to swallow. "Sim City" reflects the dominant but wrong view.

Whether or not paying for more police on the streets affects the crime rate is a question of science. MIM is either right or wrong on this point. As far as a game like "Sim City" goes, MIM questions its realism because of assumptions like the relationship between police and crime in capitalist society. Whenever we play a simulation game, we should not just get lost in all the details but try to discern the authors' view of how the world works.

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