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October 2, 2011 / jwaxo

SimTower (Property Management)

I guess most towers are thicker than a single room. Eh.

So I realize that pretty much all of my posts are about a lesson that the game involved did not necessarily set out to teach. For instance, my Oregon Trail post was more about how some games are educational overall, and my Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? post had maybe two references to the fact that the game taught us all a heck of a lot about geography and capitals and culture. I think it’s because I look at these games and go “well, duh, of course we learned what they set out to do. They’re educational games.” But I feel like something special needs to be said for the games that I poured hours into and still have no specific memories about other than the memories that the game actually set out to create.

Now that that’s all said: SimTower.

We talked about SimCity 2000. And some of that talk was about city management. We also mentioned a few of the other greats there, notably SimAnt. But there was an entire series of these Sim games, way before The Sims came out proper. Through the years we collected most of them, and all of them had many important lessons that just stuck. And I mean besides the learning of the concept of building zones and water treatment: SimLife was where I first learned the phrase “gestation period” and realized it was different for different species and held different advantage; SimIsle preached a hard lesson about town growth and delegating responsibilities to autonomous agents; SimFarm taught me that, if it were possible to predict locust plagues, you could make a killing in selling crop futures.

Old Testament Egypt should have thought of that.

SimTower was mostly just the latest Sim game that we came in contact with. My brother and I spotted it in a Scholastic Book Club catalog, pooled our allowance, and bought it through the mail. Several weeks later we had a new game.

And it was a hard game.

Almost all of the classic Sim games were really hard, to be fair. They all came with deliciously meaty manuals filled with details about the game, hints and tips in how to proceed, a tutorial on the first fifteen minutes or so, and general information that was non-pertinent, but dang fun to learn. Despite this we had a lot of trouble starting the game up.

The main point of the games, as was constantly quoted by their creator/producer/overseer Will Wright, was to act as a virtual toy. Your first city/farm/tower would not be the most successful thing in the world, but it would teach you some important lessons that you would then take with you the next time you played, with your next tower.

As we progressed with SimTower we were forced to take this to heart. In-game you would start with only the ability to place open office spaces and some stairs, but as you gradually increased in star-ratings you would gain access to additional amenities like condos, restaurants, hotel rooms and services, elevators and express elevators, a subway station, and, to cap it off, a cathedral.

We maybe got barely past the “just offices” stage before going bankrupt our first time.

Well, time to start again.

And the reason that the game was hard was not because of some cruel developers who decided to give the enemies more health than you, or constantly sent tornadoes into your town, or made the bats fly into you just when you tried to jump over the chasm. No, SimTower was hard because managing a building is just hard.

We persevered. In between karate lessons and going to friend’s houses, we would be found at the computer, taking turns managing the maids and adjusting rent prices and replacing stairs with escalators.

When a cockroach infestation swept through the building, we soon learned that the best option was just to wipe entire floors out to get rid of them all than hire more and more cleaning services. We learned not to get to know individual Sims, not to give them names and follow them around the building, because it would make it even harder when you realized you had to evict them to put in a new coffee shop.

Elevator management, traffic flows, advertisements on the sides of the building: all of these were things we stressed over and tinkered with and figured out the best pattern to get the best population flow, to get the next star rating.

Now, I’m not saying that we would necessarily know exactly how to manage a building, or even a single house. But the concepts of rent control and key locations and the key balance between high and low traffic were there, and were hammered into our heads through repeated hours and days in front of that gradually rising skyscraper.

But seriously, our mom would never let us do this.



Leave a Comment
  1. Sean / Oct 2 2011 9:37 PM

    I seriously miss this game. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to find it a handful of times since high school. It was pretty much perfect, except for the bug where everyone would move out all at once and wouldn’t move back until you went through and first lowered, then raised the rent on each and every office space or condo. Ugh.

  2. jwaxo / Oct 2 2011 9:42 PM

    Shhhh, the fact that the game had a number of weird bugs ruins the entire point of the post!

    Also *cough*?


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