Free To Be You And Me


New at Reason: If a videogame city council passes new zoning laws, do you have to obey them? Kevin Parker rips up the script for "cinematic" gaming.

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  1. I always thought that Sim City had a great lesson to teach about good government. You start out the game with an empty pasture and a few thousand dollars to build your city. As a novice player, I’d spend whatever money I had, building roads and zoning property. Soon, the city would grow and the Sims would bitch about traffic and crime, or Godzilla would wreck a few city blocks, and I wouldn’t have the resources to deal with it. It was also difficult to tax your way back to prosperity.

    Spending your money and developing the city more slowly was a better strategy, but sometimes it got boring waiting for the Sims to build up your city.

    So it turned out that the best strategy for building a nice city and getting the Sims to say good things about you in the paper was to

    1. spend a little money
    2. go get a sandwich
    3. repeat

    At the time, I proposed that legislators at any level of government should play the game for at least 40 hours before being allowed to vote on anything. Or maybe they could just open really good sandwich places next to City Hall.

  2. I’m old, stodgy, conservative and Republican… Uh these are GAMES! GAMES… Football, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, GAMES…SimCity, The Sims, Civilization, GTAIII GAMES!!!!

    I did RTFA and I was as amazed by this article as I am amazed by Critical Theorists dissecting Pop Culture or as amazed as watching Kremlinologists explaining the inner workings of the Politburo by examing the width of borders on funeral announcements or who was closest to Brezhnev in the May Day Parade.

    This is much ado about nothing. Now it’s past your bed times and you all need to go to bed, RIGHT NOW! Put down the keyboard &/or joysticks.

  3. Libertarian science fiction and “hard science fiction” bare the same relationship to science fiction in general. They are both more realistic versions. While hard sci-fi is more scientifically realistic, libertarian science fiction is more socially realistic.

    It’s the same with video and computer games and sims. If they feature some evil corporation for example, unless they show it using government to accomplish their nefarious schemes they aren’t being very realistic.

    There were at least a few libertarian computer games out at the time of the “X-Files” movie featuring a game plot that involved fighting a government conspiracy.

  4. fwiw, there’s quite a thread going on over at on this article.

    though most of the posters seem to have confused “games are imbued with certain political traits due to the conscious and unconscious biases of their creators” with “games have politics in them and that’s bad.”

  5. fwiw, there’s quite a thread going on over at on this article.

    though most of the posters seem to have confused “games are imbued with certain political traits due to the conscious and unconscious biases of their creators” with “games have politics in them and that’s bad.”

  6. dhex, yep. I’m going to have to brush and floss extra well tonight to get all of the words out of my mouth.


  7. I can’t shake the image of joe spending hundreds of hours getting the roads just right. Sim Nirvana, baby …

  8. This probably sounds silly, but I’ve learned a lot from video games. I became pro-free market after playing Civilization & Civilization 2 and realizing that if you established trade between your cities and all the other cities on the planet you could drop your taxes down to nothing, and still be the richest and most advanced nation — it was reinforced when I found that games were I did this my tech was about 200-300 years ahead of games where I didn’t. From there I looked a bit more into Free Trade, and related ideas out side the game and liked what I saw.

    Similarly, SimCity taught me about using loans as start up capitol — use no loans and it takes forever to build up your city. Use to many and the interest payments bankrupt you. If you get the balance right, your city grows fast and you pay off the loans fast without sky-high taxes.

    That said, games make great propaganda tools. The designers have total control over the mechanics behind the game, for instance in Alpha Centauri there were all sorts of penalties that made being a Capitalist economy much worse than being Green.

  9. So maybe joe discovers in the Sim that privatizing the roads works best, joe spreads the meme among his colleagues in the real world. They try it. Taxes are reduced and an economic boom ensues….

  10. Well, that beats what I got out of Pong.

  11. Madog: In Civ 2 and Civ 3, I found that no matter what you do, your neighbors are going to make war on you. I never tried the strategy of going wild with Caravans; Civ 3 dropped Caravans anyway.

  12. Luckily, for a civilization that has just been forced to put up with a century of literary domination by the left-wing effete, most computer game designers seem to be remarkably libertarian.

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