The new SimCity game came out today, and according to developer Maxis, it “delivers unprecedented depth of simulation.” That may be true, and during the hours BuzzFeed has spent playing the game so far, we’ve been delighted. But. It is a truly terrible Brooklyn simulator. (Disclaimer: here we take Brooklyn to mean the cultural turf of Lena Dunham, Brooklyn Fare, Amy Sohn, and Yeasayer, not the indescribably diverse borough that would be the fourth-most-populous free-standing city in the United States. Ok? Ok.)
Here’s why I couldn’t turn the town I created, Grozny, into the borough of Kings.
1. The residents want to work.
Unlike the hordes of “creative” “talent” descending on Brooklyn, the Sims who come to settle your new town want jobs. In Grozny, they downright demanded them: real, 9-5 work in shops and factories. There is no sleeping till 2 and Moleskine afternoons for these folks. Just a good, honest day’s work and every two weeks some “Simoleons” to spend at the bar. What Philistines.
(I am, however, planning a nearby “Parentstown” to subsidize an entirely commercial and residential Grozny.)
2. There are no mixed-use spaces.
Every building site in SimCity requires categorization into one of three zones: residential, commercial, or industrial. What this means: there will be no artisanal clothing stores-come-galleries-come-lofts-come-Korean taco stands. Just houses, stores, and factories, all separated, a Jane Jacobs nightmare blinking on your monitor.
3. The factories and warehouses make and store things.
When you build an industrial site in SimCity, provided there are any residents in your town, it will get cranking immediately on making something. Unfortunately, this means that it cannot be used to host MDMA-frenzied weekend raves. Even if the business abandons the factory, you, as mayor, cannot repurpose it for cultural and drug-abusing purposes. You simply have to bulldoze it and turn it into something profitable. How dare they.
4. People protest high rent.
Unlike Brooklyn, where people with mysterious cashflow pay $3,000 a month for a studio and the displaced slink quietly away with no real local political representation, the residents of Grozny blow their stack when there isn’t enough low-income housing. What a hellhole.
5. People protest high taxes.
Marginal tax rates in New York City are the second highest in the nation. Yet when I tried taxing the residents of Grozny at a mere 12%, middle class residents fled the city en masse. Those who stayed picketed City Hall. Can’t they just take a fourth job like everyone else?
6. There are cars everywhere and no one complains.
Sure, you have the choice to build public transportation, but because of the way the game encourages you to zone in gridded blocks, Sims drive all over the place. Not once did we spot an irate cyclist, a presumptuous pedestrian, or even the beginnings of a Critical Mass. Cretins.
7. The residents are happy with just a few, highly-functional stores.
Well, yes, a certain kind of Brooklynite, the kind that can’t afford to live in Brooklyn, would appreciate some of the shops that sprung (not popped) up in Grozny: Breakfast With a Hole, Laughing Gas Gasoline, and Crazy Dave’s Discount Auto. For everyone else, there would be an unlivable lack of stores that sold terrariums, Edison bulbs, pour-over coffee, and matching-donation slip-on shoes.
So, no, this new and very impressive game does not allow you to simulate the Brooklyn that you may have read about in the Sunday Styles section. Instead, it lets you create a city where things do what they should, where people work to make an honest living, and where politicians have to respect the power of the people. You know, like Brooklyn, 1950!