When choosing Sim City as one of my all time favourite games (and wrestling Spode for the privilege) I was suddenly struck by the expanse of titles lovingly referred to as God Games. A genre arguably founded by Populous in 1989 and built on by classics such as Powermonger, Dune 2, Theme Park, Railway Tycoon, Civilization, Black & White, Rome: Total War, The Sims and many, many more it became hard to think of another category where the quality is so consistently high. Sim City it is though, and hereâ€™s why.
For me it offered just the right level of control. Whereas The Sims felt like micromanaging (I really donâ€™t care about wallpaper patterns) and Black & White was just a little too grandiose with its spell casting, Sim City let me mess with the fabric of society just enough outside of its rules and with just enough despotism to suck me right in.
Never before that fateful afternoon when I booted up Maxisâ€™ first ever release had I dreamed of jugging council budgets, fixing local water supplies, building highways and pushing up income tax, but wow wasnâ€™t it addictive! Developed by Will Wright, an archetypal nerd and genius who went on to create The Sims as well as the hugely ambitious but ultimately flawed SimEarth, the concept was simple yet devilishly complex: start your own city on a bare stretch of land and grow it into a blossoming metropolis.
That said, this description leaves out another key element to the game: time. As you built your income, expanded your residential, commercial and industrial zones and (hopefully) boosted your war chest, months and years would role by. New technology blossomed and we all took a deep breath as we constructed the first nuclear power plant on the edge of our sleepy towns.
Not that these were the only dangers since â€˜Disastersâ€™ were possibly the most famous part of the game. An option which could be switched off, made to appear at random intervals or called upon manually, they consisted of fires, flooding, riots, earthquakes and, most memorably, monsters. Wright explained their inclusion as a way of testing the infrastructure of your city but I was rarely teenager-enough to voluntarily wreck something I had spent so long creating.
Naturally enough, after SimCity became a worldwide smash, a slew of sequels emerged each less successful than the last. SimCity 2000 (1993) certainly grabbed me as it swapped the top down view for a 3D perspective. Subsequently SimCity 3000 (1999) and SimCity 4 (2003) got even prettier and ever more complex but seemed to lose something of the spirit of the original. A further follow up, promised to be more inline with the wonderful original, appears to be stuck in production limbo but for those looking for a fix until it appears you could do worse than check out Monte Cristoâ€™s newly released City Life.