Thursday, November 01, 2007

Simulated City, Real Propaganda

I was looking forward to the new Simcity. Tilted Mill did a decent job on its first title, Children of the Nile. Their follow-up, Caesar IV, was lackluster, especially considering its pedigree.

They really seemed to have an interesting take on the overly-familiar Simcity formula. The focus would be on developing a city's "energy," its overall feel - whether authoritarian, liberal, etc. It definitely sounds cool, dealing not so much with micromanaging spreadsheet numbers but shifting the emotional aura of districts.

But now I'm not so sure.

See, it turns out that BP, the energy giant, was so fascinated by the social implications of the title, that they generously offered to consult with the publisher. How we deal with pollution is very important, you see.

That's why, in the game, all the environmentally-sound forms of energy are branded with BP's logo. Gas stations, too, but automobiles miraculously don't cause pollution.* All of the high-polluters are unbranded; I guess we're lucky they aren't marked with BP's competition.


“We want people to understand the climate issue a bit better and understand that there are twice as many greenhouse emissions from generating electricity than from all forms of transport combined."

Holy fucking shit. I know that EA has been spreading their legs for in-game advertisements for a few years now. This, though, goes beyond product placement. They are now presenting industry propaganda completely unchecked. I really cannot support this game in any way. In fact, I would encourage people to buy completely legal copies and destroy them.

Here are a few of my own ideas for the game:

-When you build a BP headquarters, they will spend millions buying off your city officials in order to deregulate the publicly-owned energy utilities. Once that happens, they monopolize the energy industry. Then they start manipulating the reserve power in order to artificially inflate supply and thereby raise prices. You can actually zoom in and watch your old Sims freeze to death in the winter because they can't afford heat (alternately, you can watch as they pay for heat but neglect their prescription medication).

-As your city fills with automobiles, your oil demand skyrockets. The pollution they generate causes a high incidence of respiratory disorders. The BP board surreptitiously fixes prices at gas stations, causing ill will. You are forced to pay huge subsidies to BP in order to replace their oil rigs destroyed by tsunamis (an unfortunate side effect of global warming). A war in the Middle East causes gas prices to triple, business suffers, the crime rate skyrockets. Billions of dollars in oil is lost to the black market; BP is of course completely innocent.

-You have to levy huge taxes on your middle class citizens because, for some reason, you can't tax the upper class above 4% (the slider won't go higher).

Maybe I'm being too harsh. Not all energy companies are the same. They just all collaborate behind closed doors with the Vice President for some reason.**

*I recall Buckminster Fuller's take on the LA smog - a rebuttal to oil companies who denied that automobiles contributed a significant amount of pollution - and how Sunday mornings had mysteriously clear skies along with little traffic, surely a coincidence.

**For those who think I'm being unnecessarily conspiratorial:
"The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated."


Chris said...

"I would encourage people to buy completely legal copies and destroy them."

This line confuses me... wouldn't you rather encourage people not to put money into the hands of its makers? :-/ Destroying media is seldom helpful.

BP are one of the least awful of the energy companies, but largely only by comparison to the alternatives.

You've piqued my interest with this one: I wonder what other people are saying about it...

Best wishes!

Johnny Pi said...

Well, because I didn't want to encourage anything illegal and b/c while voting with your pocketbook is great, it doesn't really make any statement at all. If BP were to start getting a whole bunch of shredded discs in the mail they'd at least have an idea, but they aren't going to go "Oh, Johnny Pi did not purchase a copy he is truly making a statement here, as opposed to all those millions of other products that he doesn't buy."

Really, it was just an offhanded comment. I don't recommend giving them money in any way.

viagra prescription said...

I do not think BP has a lot competendia that is very good! I like that always wants to preserve the environment!