For those who grew tired of fighting the video game villains in the 80s, a new type of game arrived in 1989 that put an entire metropolis under your watchful eye. SimCity not only offered an alternative to battle-based games, it launched a whole new genre, the simulation game, one that proved enormously popular.

SimCity was the creation of a man named Will Wright, a game designer with a vision of a different type of gaming experience, one where creation replaced destruction. He was playing a game that allowed the player to design their own custom maps and realized that he was having more fun creating than playing the actual game. He thought there might be some like-minded individuals out there and, although game publishers didn’t see the potential, he would prove them wrong in a major way.

The game starts the player with a blank canvas and the tools necessary to turn that blank plot of land (and sea) into a thriving metropolis. Three types of zones are available – residential, commercial and industrial – and once an area is zoned, people start moving into these zones and structures are built on the land. But that’s just skimming the surface.

One also has to place roads and power lines to connect their city. Not enough power leads to blackouts; not enough roads leads to traffic jams. Too much of either of these leads to pollution. There are also criminals, fires, and other natural disasters to contend with. A tornado or earthquake, for example, can leave a trail of devastation in their wake, turning your dream city into a nightmare. As the population in your city grows, the problems become more difficult to handle.

There’s another little real-world issue to deal with – a budget. All those roads require maintenance and all those public safety departments need funding, which comes from, you guessed it, taxes. Keep them low and you’ll have happy citizens and a disintegrating infrastructure. Raise them too high and people will refrain from moving in and growing your city. Much like real life, it’s a constant balancing act.

All of these aspects added up to one addictive and very successful little game. Within three years, SimCity sold over a million units and garnered numerous awards and accolades for Maxis, the company founded by the Will Wright to distribute the game. And, like any mega-success, sequels would soon follow.

The first was SimCity 2000, launched in 1994, which replaced flat land with rolling hills and added an underground layer for water pipes and subways. SimCity 3000 followed in 1999, adding more features along the way. 2004 saw the biggest innovations to the SimCity franchise with Sim Cit. Instead of one region, the player could now build and connect multiple regions into one huge metropolis.

Maxis rebooted the whole series in 2013 with a newly-designed SimCity. Unfortunately, the game only received a lukewarm reaction, which led to the announcement that EA Games was closing their Maxis division. Whether there will be any more additions to the franchise? It’s anyone’s guess at this point.

SimCity was not only a great game in its own right, but it unleashed a new thriving genre, the simulation game. So many offshoots, in fact, that it would be impossible to list all of the games that SimCity inspired. In the early years, there was SimAnt, SimFarm, Simsville, etc. The most successful arrived in 2000, simply called The Sims. A virtual dollhouse of sorts, it has since become one of the most successful video games of all time.

Competing game companies have also jumped on the simulation bandwagon with such popular games as Zoo Tycoon, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Railroad Tycoon, Mall Tycoon, Airport Tycoon, Sim Hospital…and the list goes on and on. If there is something in this world that you would like a video game to simulate, it probably already exists. And you can thank the original SimCity for proving that people don’t always like to destroy imaginary places. Sometimes it’s a heck of a lot more fun to build them.

One final note: the original SimCity is now free to play at a number of places online. So, if you yearn for those simple days of city design, do a quick search online. You’ll be playing in no time.

Meanwhile, if you put in few hundred hours playing the original SimCity, we’d love to hear all of your memories of this enormously popular simulation game in our comments section below.

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