Electronic Arts is out with a new app called SimCity BuildIt. Its a free game with some in-app purchases that you can play on your iphone, ipad, and android devices (and link to friends’ cities through facebook). SimCity is an old game, often reinvented, where you are the mayor that has to build a city. No city councils or elections get in your way. The gameplay of SimCity let’s you pick your residential areas. As the game goes you can relocate them at no cost and eminent domain without restraint! You also build the factories and stores that you want. Its a central planner socialist dream!
Or is it? You go up levels as your population grows. Plopping down more residential areas and putting more resources into them to make them bigger and better. Quickly into the game you start dealing with production queues and you can only build a few factories. There is a coded cap on how many you can have in the city. To buy more factories and shops you need gold or simoleans and you get it either by selling resources (you pick to produce) or using the resources to build bigger buildings. With facilities capped out you rely on long queues for the resources you need, You start facing more and more shortages as you try to keep up with both resources and services to your people. Gee, if there was only a privatize option that could meet all the demand this mayor job would be easy!
The resource constraint defines the game. Resources can be sped up if you spend simcash. The game is free but this where in-app purchases come in. If you need something you can’t build in time or need some other slot in the queue it requires simcash, which you start with a little and can win a little, but to really spend it often you need your credit card to buy it. No better example of Maggie Thatcher’s saying “the problem with socialism is that you run out of other people’s money.” In this case yours!
As your population goes up so does your tax revenue. The happier your people are the more taxes you collect. Wait, what? Actually, that does make sense. You get better compliance if your taxes are low and fairly applied and the game appears to have a flat tax. Managing this happiness and actually not constantly trying to grow your city you’ll actually start saving a lot of this gold. Once you reach that balance where services are covered, people are happy, and you aren’t actively trying to grow or arrange your city you just check in once a day to collect your taxes and build a nice surplus. You know, let people live their lives with out trying to control them!
So there you have it. On the surface, Electronic Arts’ Simcity BuildIt looks like its a game for those budding megalomaniacs that want to be an unquestioned mayor who want to centrally plan their city. But each part of the game is about dealing with frustrating constraints and problems as you try to run the lives of people. Hopefully, that lesson comes across to all those young app players out there!
Elliot Schroeder is Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of San Diego.