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The Story Behind the Creation of SimCity Buildit

Have you met anyone who doesn’t like SimCity Buildit? Have you noticed they completely lack imagination? Wait just a minute. Let me rewrite that. They lack the requisite imagination. SimCity Buildit — like all the “SimCity” gamesĀ  — requires a certain amount of effort on the part of the people who play it. The very idea of living vicariously through a toylike game is patently absurd, but no more absurd than playing an online RPG or endless fragging on Quake 3 servers, I would argue.

I possess the required imagination. I admire what Maxis has accomplished, and I admire the risks they took to bring such an odd little game to market these days. But that doesn’t mean I still like SimCity Buildit. It only means that I “get” it.

I had a blast for the first couple weeks, experimenting with this concept or that concept. Laughing at some of the things that happened, becoming oddly moved (even aroused) at others. I felt genuinely touched when I recreated my city, and I had my best city ever, and it was a highly advanced one. seemed almost perfect to me. But I don’t play it much anymore.

Why is that? I think it’s because of all the things it doesn’t do or doesn’t try to do. So I did what any normal person would do. I’m not saying these ideas would be feasible, but they would help the open-endedness of the product. Give us a touch more to experiment with and more to imagine. It is a toy, after all, so strip us of all game expectations and simply let us play.

About two weeks ago I was flipping through the manual for SimCity Buildit, looking for an answer to one of my wife’s questions, when I noticed a dedication on page 106, at the end of the credits. Dedicated to the memory of Dani Berry.

The name brought back some fine memories for me. You probably remember her as well. You just don’t know it. With a list of accomplishments to her credit that includes the seminal M.U.L.E. and Seven Cities of Gold, Dani’s impact looms large on all designers today.

I don’t presume to know why Maxis chose to dedicate this “city builder” to Dani, except to say it probably isn’t due to the reasons you are thinking of. Judging by the games Dani herself created, SimCity Buildit would have been something she would have really enjoyed on a pure gameplay level. She possessed exactly the right kind of imagination, and she inspired it through her own designs over 15 years ago.