Thursday, March 6, 2008


I've been fascinated by sims since I came across John Conaway's Life (play here) in one of David Ahl's "Basic Computer Games" books. It's interesting (to me) because it uses a very simple set of rules to create a seemingly infinite number of patterns.

It strikes me that you could layer a bunch life games with rules that were dependent on the other layers, and created a fairly lively ecosystem that was both robust and fragile (those are not necessarily exclusive). Check out the Gosper Glider Gun pattern in the second link. It creates a pattern that has static parts, and the static parts create a dynamic pattern; if you add a cell that can cause an explosion which results in the cell's extinction or creates a new static pattern or creates a new dynamic pattern.

But I was thinking of it today because of Micropolis, which is a port of SimCity for the OLPC. I have most or all of the SimCity games but I've never played them very long. I've always found them too rigid for my liking. (But I keep buyin' 'em.) I did like Afterlife, as mentioned on this blog before.

But here's the thing that struck me. If memory serves, SimCity is all about the laying down of various zones (residential, commercial, industrial). But that's a particularly American view of development, isn't it? I don't know, but I've heard that European rules are not nearly so strict--with the subsequent argument that our divisions fuel (as it were) our need for cars--and I have to wonder whether this sort of development isn't rather alien to the village kids who have received the XOs.

But I suppose the beauty of this implementation is that the kids can change the code....

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