My wife and I were shopping for a new laptop the other night. (The laptop is for her. I never leave the house so I don’t know what I’d do with one.) We didn’t find one, but I did get snagged at the software rack and ended up impulse buying Sim City 4.
I’ve been meaning to get the game anyway. My former boss left our company to go work for Maxis and had a hand in the game, so I wanted to get it just because it’s cool to see the name of a friend in the credits.
Sim City 4 is very much the same as its predecessors. The problem with this series is that they pretty much nailed it with Sim City 2000, which was more than a decade ago. They perfected the formula, and now all they can do is add pixels. Nothing wrong with that, but there is nothing like buying a new game, installing it, starting it up, and then realizing you’ve already played it.
This iteration does have a few nice features that were on my own Sim City wishlist. Buildings can be built on hills. There is a nice day / night cycle. You can build different types of roads or make rolling farmlands. I’ve always wanted to make a more rural / suburbia area, and the game will at last let you do that.
But the best feature of the game is the ability to target taxes on very specific groups. You can have business and industry pay all the taxes, and give residents a free ride. Or give the poor a break and cut their taxes, thus moving the tax burden onto the rich. You can set things up to be nice and egalitarian.
Or, you can take a more sinister approach and enact an inverted progressive tax. (Would that make it a regressive tax?) Tired of cheap houses and shabby buildings? Just crank up the taxes on the poor and drive them out of town. Lower taxes on the rich and thus attract more of them. Pretty soon you’ll have a city with nothing but wealthy people and beautiful buildings. Nobody seems to really mind. (Except the poor, but they left anyhow so who cares what they think?)
If this were any sort of a realistic simulation my political career would end moments after suggesting such a policy. But it isn’t, so I’m free to tax the poor as much as I like. After all, they brought it on themselves. I certainly never told them to be poor. If they don’t like the high taxes they can get their act together and get rich like every other self-respecting citizen.
It’s a winning strategy, let me tell you.
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