Monday, August 21, 2006

No, it isn't very pretty, a town without pity

I spent all of Sunday addictively playing a PC game called City Life. It's a bit like Sim City - you have to build a working city. The main difference here though is that there are 6 social groupings in the city that you have to manage - making sure that they don't end up clashing with each other, and satisfying all their needs. As the game starts, your city is only small and only the lower classes will deign to live there - the simple-living, down-to-earth Blue Collars, the counter-cultural Fringe workers and the skanky Have Nots. But as your city begins to grow in size, the middle class Suits and Radical Chics will move in, demanding bistros and vegetarian restaurants and kicking up a fuss if they don't have access to schools, hospitals and police protection. Bitches. Finally, members of the upper class Elite will appear, though I never got that far.

What's fun about the game is that you can focus in on any part of the city and view it in close-up, to the point where you can observe people walking around - dressed in different colours depending on their social class. The Fringe workers all seem to drive Orange Camper Vans and their neighbourhoods are strewn with graffiti, whereas the Radical Chics all wear shades and haughtily strut around like they own the place. The Have Nots tend to stagger along, as if looking for their next heroin fix. In order to encourage people to "better" themselves, I invested in a school of Adult Education. However, it proved to be insanely expensive to run and as a result the entire city went hideously bankrupt. Then a fire started in one of the Have Not areas, quickly spreading everywhere as I optimistically had skimped on providing adequate emergency services, hoping that people would be sensible and not leave chip pans unattended. Shortly after this, the few Radical Chics and Suits I'd managed to cajole into living in the city,left in disgust, their once trendy skyscrapers turning into horrible ugly Blue Collar dwellings, before my eyes and their snazzy office buildings left empty, running up more debts - with no-one capable of working the computers and thinking up ideas for new tv shows. Then a bunch of Blue Collars started harrassing the few Fringes who'd moved into their area to teach at the local school. There were some unpleasant scenes involving pushing and jostling in the street. It all got a little too real and I had to walk away, leaving my city to fend for itself. Thank God I never took up town planning as a career choice.

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