SimCity has been lying to you. For decades, the legendary city-simulation game has given players the sense that they possessed real power over virtual people. When you played SimCity—whether you got hooked by the original game, created by Will Wright and released in 1989, or its many wonderful sequels—you imagined yourself as a city-planning savant who had the power to make life awesome or awful for thousands of hapless simulated citizens.
Sure, they weren’t real people, but the genius of SimCity was the way it elicited empathy for your digital constituents. When you hiked taxes or shut down a fire station or plopped a coal power plant in a residential neighborhood, you imagined, if only briefly, the tragic consequences of your callous reign. Somewhere deep down in the game engine, a simulated salaryman was losing his job, someone’s sim apartment was burning down, and little sim boys and girls were coughing in their sleep. And it was your fault.
But that was all a fiction. ...