The new Sim City: an economist's take
As the hit game SimCity seems a training ground for future urban planners, here are a few features I'd love to see incorporated in the new edition:
Real-time play with an unstoppable clock. You could wind it down to be as slow as the real world, but never pause it. Dithering over zoning decisions interferes with the simulated individuals' plans and has them leave in frustration. The clock should keep running, at real-world-time, even during saved games.
Bulldozing houses without above-market-value compensation makes residents unhappy. You should have to weigh these costs against whatever it is you're trying to bulldoze into existence.
Inertia costs: building up a tighter regulatory structure and more prescriptive zoning rules causes delayed implementation of future changes. So if an earthquake hits and you were running a tight smart growth policy ex-ante, it takes you longer to change any of your zoning. If you've only been running the policy for a couple of years, maybe you get a month's delay. If you've been running it long enough that that's the only thing your bureaucrats know, change is almost impossible unless you fire them all.
The new edition embeds intercity effects, at least according to the reviews. I'm really curious to see how they handle investment and mobility flows. Are simulated residents homogeneous in amenity preferences? How does Tiebout work in this world?
- I really hope that the new edition doesn't assume that stadiums could never exist but for local government financing.
The reviews of the new SimCity look great. Once they've added enough servers or added an offline mode to make the thing playable, or maybe once a cracked version without the mandatory-online-DRM-downgrade is widely available, I'll likely give it a shot. I hope at least a couple of these are in there.
Dr Eric Crampton is a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Canterbury. He blogs at blogs at Offsetting Behaviour.