SIMULATIONS AND LEARNING

From 1992 to 1994, a division called Maxis Business Simulations was responsible for making serious professional simulations that looked and played like Maxis games. After Maxis cut the division loose, the company continued to operate independently, taking the simulation game genre in their own direction. Their games found their way into in corporate training rooms and even went as far as the White House.

When SimCity got serious: the story of Maxis Business Simulations and SimRefinery | The Obscuritory

After the success of SimCity, Maxis started making other simulation “games” targeted at industry. It included a refinery game, as well as one to help inform the health care policy debate in the early Clinton white house.

This reminds me a lot of why En-Roads is such an effective tool for doing climate simulations, there is real time feedback, and it feels like a game. But as you move sliders around you can see how complex systems interact, sometimes in surprising ways.

I think the story also gives a really important cautionary tale on tools for policy. SimHealth was built to inform the health care debate. Many approximations and things were left out of the game to make it playable, and then it was largely targeted at policy insiders. Whereas the value was probably more in raising broad understanding for the complexity and interactions of different policy approaches.

30 years later, I still think about C, R, I as the basis for zoning (even though that’s completely inaccurate in a real world), because of years of SimCity play. It makes me wonder how cool it might be to have a SimCity 2050 that starts with a modern prebuilt city (or state), and your job is to rebuild it to net-zero by 2050. What a cool game that would be.