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SimCity, the product of a California software firm called Maxis, grew in tandem with the personal computer industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since that time, it has been released in many upgraded forms; won a number of awards; and spawned a number of popular spin-offs, such as SimEarth and The Sims. The original simulation was created by an entrepreneur named Will Wright, whose motives—apart from those associated with commercial profit—are often said to have included a wish to demonstrate that a latent market exists for cerebral and nonviolent video games.

From the perspective of urban studies, what makes the game interesting is its political content. SimCity is based on several commonplace premises: that cities ultimately are physical and material (as opposed to ...

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