SimCity is a rarity among video games. It’s one of the longest lasting franchises in the business, and there’s nothing to blow up. In SimCity, you play the role of mayor-cum-urban planner. You create a city from scratch, and it’s populated by simulated people called Sims. The latest version, SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow, takes a sci-fi twist. The futuristic tech in the game is based on real ideas in development. Like sewage sanitizers. “We’re going to go there," says Jason Haber, who co-designed the game. "At some point in future it’s going to be accepted that you just sanitize the sewage and you have more drinking water.” The mag-lev train in Cities of Tomorrow is based on the high speed Hyperloop proposed by Elon Musk, owner of Tesla Motors. And the game includes a drone system that looks an awful lot like Amazon’s Prime Air, which Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced about a month after the game came out.
As the mayor, you have to choose between two different paths in Cities of Tomorrow. You can anchor your city around a private company called OmegaCo, which cranks out cheap products and pollutes the environment. Players may see it as a necessary evil. “All of the sudden you’re like, whoa, I have to have OmegaCo in my city or it will fall apart!” Haber says. You can also build your city around The Academy, a hub of green innovation. Or you can mix and match. But Haber found the dystopian city was a bigger hit with gamers. He thinks that’s likely because the bad guys get to have more fun. “That shows you the nature of what it’s like to play a game,” Haber says, “and be able to have that fun space to play with.”