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SimCity 3000 and art
post May 17 2010, 09:12 AM
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I stumbled across this YouTube video last night:

Quick synopsis: a guy basically spends several years designing the "perfect" city in SimCity 3000 -- or, at least perfect in the sense that it maximizes population. What's more interesting, though, is why he did it. A writer interviewed the creator. Here are a few of the more interesting quotes from the interview:

For me, SimCity 3000 is more than just a game. It has evolved to become a tool or medium for artistic self-expression. While most games today are focused on destroying things and killing other players, Sim City instead allows one to exercise the imagination to create, and express. Many people say, ďOh, itís just a game!Ē But they are mistaken.


Moments like these compel me to physically express progressions in my thought, I have just happened to do that through the form of creating these cities in SimCity 3000. I could probably have done something similar - depicting the awesome regimentation and brutality of our society - with a series of paintings on a canvas, or through hideous architectural models.

There are a lot of other problems in the city hidden under the illusion of order and greatness: Suffocating air pollution, high unemployment, no fire stations, schools, or hospitals, a regimented lifestyle - this is the price that these sims pay for living in the city with the highest population. Itís a sick and twisted goal to strive towards. The ironic thing about it is the sims in Magnasanti tolerate it. They donít rebel, or cause revolutions and social chaos. No one considers challenging the system by physical means since a hyper-efficient police state keeps them in line. They have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years.

It shows that by only focusing on one objective, one may end up neglecting, or resorting to sacrificing, other important elements. Similarly, [in the real world] if we make maximizing profits as the absolute objective, we fail to take into consideration the social and environmental consequences.

What I found fascinating is that he essentially used a game to express an artistic idea. It reminded me of an article about The Sims by Chuck Klosterman that appeared in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. After playing The Sims, Klosterman snagged an interview with Will Wright (the creator of both The Sims and the SimCity games) to ask him a few questions, particularly about the consumerist nature of The Sims. Wright responded that no one ever really understood The Sims; everyone thinks that buying more stuff makes your Sims happier, but Wright points out that in the long run, it just causes problems for your Sims (stuff breaks, gets stolen, etc.). He points out that the key to long-term happiness in The Sims isn't found in buying more shit. (Although I think that concept has changed, now that Wright no longer works directly on the project; The Sims 3 has a very consumer-oriented theme.)

Wright states that part of his goal in creating The Sims was to answer the question, what is life? Is it about financial success? Love? Happiness? Friends? The Sims allows you to explore these ideas, says Wright. As Klosterman points out, that is, in fact, one basic definition for art.

I've always been a big fan of the SimCity games and, to a lesser extend, The Sims, because they suit my personality: there's no way to "win", you can only beat yourself and your previous "best". I never really considered, though, that the games could be used in an artistic way.

What do you think? Can computer games be "artistic", or are they purely entertainment?
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post Aug 21 2012, 02:28 AM
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i remember dis and reading your blog post

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