A reader writes:
Will Wright is an avowed libertarian and has been since the very first version of Simcity, the algorithms in the game are designed towards that philosophical conception of the world. Game design allows people to create a world in which they control not only the user's perception of the world, but the public within it as well, and can enforce the rules which their philosophical beliefs dictate. Computer programming, like every other maths or science major, attracts libertarians who are more comfortable with perceiving the world as a matter of hard and fast rules.
I've been playing Tropico 3 – or I was, until the Egypt uprising. It's not that Egypt cut into my game-playing time, it's that it was eerily like the game.
If you don't know it, T3 is a game where you are the dictator of a banana republic – on a tropical island, so as to invoke Cuba or Haiti – and like Sim City, you control everything, transportation systems, industry, etc. The difference is, you have a lot of game-play inspired by real dictators. You can have secret police, bribe or jail dissidents, have a secret Swiss bank account (with income that you graft off of industry), refuse to have elections, etc. The game typically ends with you getting run out of office, escaping by plane, with your Swiss bank account money.As I watched the Egypt uprising, I was struck by all the things I recognized from the game (right up to when the Swiss said they were freezing his bank account– good thing THAT isn't in the game!). And now, I can't bring myself to play it. Even with a "benevolent dictator", it feels really creepy.
Lessons learned: if Ms. Potts found conservatism in SimCity, I learned you can't block out immigrants (or no one will take the bad jobs) and a little central planning goes a long way, if you want to make people stop building shacks by your tourist areas.
Anyway, I look forward to the day when the game seems quaint again and I can get back to playing without feeling echoes of the real people being oppressed by their dictators.