SIMCITYI’m going to start by saying that I’ve been a lifelong PC gamer, and as such SimCity and I have a long and storied past together. In a sense, it’s the Yoko to my John. I have a deep, shameful love for it that has the potential to ruin many other important aspects of my life.

The year was 1995, and a six-year-old Tom Johnson had come down the staircase on Christmas morning to find a brand new eggshell-colored Packard-Bell tower with a 12-inch monitor, running a copy of Microsoft’s fresh new Windows 95 operating system.

Alongside the computer came a massive box with Maxis’ hottest jam at the time, SimCity 2000. I immediately ripped the two floppy disks out of the packaging and dove into the rich world of urban planning and development, and regularly did so for several years following. To this day, it remains very near and dear to my heart, even though subsequent releases haven’t really lived up to it. I guess that’s the problem with starting the show with a showstopper: it becomes really hard for anything to come close. It was a very deep and fulfilling, yet solitary, experience, and I loved it.

I guess that’s where the ultimate failing of SimCity is. The newest entry in the series, while ultimately superior in some ways, focuses a lot on the asynchronous multiplayer aspect of the game. Where in previous releases I would be able to create my own self-sufficient utopia, I must now rely on cities made by others for certain resources in order to progress my city further, which is crap, really. The game isn’t called SimCities, it’s SimCity, and I should be able to play it as such.

The fact that I can be dependent on another city for specific resources, and then they can just decide to bounce out and delete the city, leaving me up shit’s creek without a paddle is messed up. There should be a contingency for something like that. They shouldn’t just assume that the other players are good people, because it’s the Internet, and the majority of them aren’t.

It does look fine, though, as you’d expect a game like this released in 2013 to look. However, it’s pretty heavy on a system. I’m running a machine with a video card that is no slouch and an Intel Core i7, but when I crank the speed up on a fully-developed city, the game chugs like no tomorrow. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a processor issue, but I could be wrong. Needless to say, I never thought that SimCity would be the game to bring my machine to its knees, but lo and behold, here we are.

The failing of the server infrastructure certainly didn’t help either, as it more or less rendered the game unplayable for quite some time during the first week of release.  EA has since increased server capacity by a significant percentage, but it still doesn’t change a thing about how awful the launch was, and how it soured the experience for a ton of people, myself included.

I want to love SimCity, I really do, and I’m going to give it more time to try and win me over in the months to come. However, as it stands right now, it breaks my heart in ways not many things could. It has such great potential. They just need to figure out a way to realize its potential before it’s way too late.


Tom is a photographer, writer, and the former Managing Editor of the Stony Brook Press. He likes chili cook-offs, cats, hot dogs, and viewers like you.

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