Building SimCity: How to Put the World in a Machine

Building SimCity: How to Put the World in a Machine

Building SimCity: How to Put the World in a Machine

Building SimCity: How to Put the World in a Machine


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A deep dive into the trailblazing simulation game SimCity, situating it in the history of games, simulation, and computing.

Building SimCity explores the history of computer simulation by chronicling one of the most influential simulation games ever made: SimCity. As author Chaim Gingold explains, Will Wright, the visionary designer behind the urban planning game, created SimCity in part to learn about cities, appropriating ideas from traditions in which computers are used as tools for modeling and thinking about the world as a complex system. As such, SimCity is a microcosm of the histories and cultures of computer simulation that engages with questions, themes, and representational techniques that reach back to the earliest computer simulations.

Gingold uses SimCity to explore a web of interrelated topics in the history of technology, software, and simulation, taking us far and wide—from the dawn of programmable computers to miniature cities made of construction paper and role-play. An unprecedented history of Maxis, the company founded to bring SimCity to market, the book reveals Maxis’s complex relations with venture capitalists, Nintendo, and the Santa Fe Institute, which shaped the evolution of Will Wright’s career; Maxis’s failure to back The Sims to completion; and the company’s sale to Electronic Arts.

A lavishly visual book, Building SimCity boasts a treasure trove of visual matter to help bring its wide-ranging subjects to life, including painstakingly crafted diagrams that explain SimCity’s operation, the Kodachrome photographs taken by Charles Eames of schoolchildren making model cities, and Nintendo’s manga-style “Dr. Wright” character design, just to name a few.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262547482
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 06/04/2024
Series: Game Histories
Pages: 486
Sales rank: 171,731
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Chaim Gingold is a designer and theorist whose work has been featured in Wired, CNN, and the New York Times. He worked closely with Will Wright on Spore and designed the Spore Creature Creator.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“I learned more about the history and practice of simulation from this book than I ever knew. While I was usually stuck in the trees when designing SimCity, Gingold rises above to see the entire forest."
—Will Wright, designer of SimCity and The Sims; Cofounder, Maxis

“Much more than a book about SimCity, or even about videogames, its large scope includes the invention of interactive computer graphics for simulations of all kinds, including the ‘beyond reality’ universes of games. Highly recommended!”
—Alan Kay, winner of the 2003 ACM Turing Award
Building SimCity tells the riveting and timely story of how the very unlikely idea of simulating cities became one of the most successful videogames of all times, tracing its origins back to the history of computing.”
—Yasmin B. Kafai, Lori and Michael Milken President’s Distinguished Professor, The University of Pennsylvania; coauthor of Connected Gaming: What Making Video Games Can Teach Us about Learning and Literacy

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