6 June 2008

Ur-points: Sim City



If it hadn't been for a childhood spent in a darkened room, hunched in front of genius early computer game Sim City, would I have ever got so interested in cities, their patterns, and the forces that shape their operation? The variables one could control in Sim City (taxes, land-use zoning, transport and so on) always functioned linearly-enough that the algorithms behind the game were semi-visible, making it (after enough practice) easy enough to build the optimum-functioning city. So after having built a profitable, thriving city, I had to seek new challenges - to design a city optimised for education, or low pollution, or of lots of separate small communities. This sounds not so far from the challenges of real urban planning, but when I tried to implement the Chicago school models of urban zoning I learnt about in GCSE geography, they never really worked. Sometimes I would get bored, and attack my cities with wave after wave of floods, fires, aliens, volcanoes... Or take profit-making to its logical conclusion and construct an ultra-dense city of arcologies, each holding thousands of Sim-residents - and ridden with crime, and so watched over by a thousand police stations...

These days, of course, I have read de Certeau and I know all about the importance of practice, I know about performed spaces and subaltern geographies and more. But still, those early days spent simulating cities force me to acknowledge the pleasures of the god-view, make it seem so easy to slip into pastel-coloured dreams of total knowledge, and order, and discipline, all for the welfare of the population...

Sensuo-city

The city stinks today, a cloying retch of decay. I believe it is only a type of tree pollen, but it still hints at the possibility of a dead body rotting in a flat overlooking the street, the dark & disgusting unknowns that might hide behind every wall in this space... It blends into the honk from the fishmongers - real dead bodies this time, blended with a slight hint of unwashed pussy... Jeez, when I dream of an embodied city I do not want my thoughts to go in this direction!