Ideology, SimCity and cheating at Football Manager
As a teen I played alot of video games. Not really a great fan of level based games like Sonic or Mario, but rather anything that required you to strategise; to create something in digital space that then needed you to control and direct it. I’m quite sure this was not due to some deep, dark desire to become a dictator or that I’m a closet socialist, but just because there is a great sense of joy to be had from watching things adapt and live, survive and evolve, based on the decisions you take.
My first love was SimCity (I can’t tell you how many takes on the name London I’ve come up with over the years: Londinium, Londonasis, New London, Old London, I could go on). If you’ve never played it before, the premise is simple: design and build a city that is financially sound, with thriving industrial,economical and residential sectors. Success or failure relies on your ability to provide the city with what it needs, which at various times can range from jobs, to housing, to cleaner energy. What kept me coming back to rebuilt Londonopolis time and time again was the chance to experiment with the layout of the city. Developing techniques and strategies to help it grow and develop: to make it prosperous.
This type of game plan was very influencing, it led me to source other ways in which I might be able to further explore this idea of environmental (spatial not ecological) change that the game, although primitively, touches on.
One aspect of the game that I have grown to dislike is its ideologically simple stance. As an architect you learn to think about the individual, understanding how one might occupy and use a space, to better understand how you can make the whole suit the majority. SimCity however practises a method of large scale development, led, controlled and influenced by the numerical representation of people, money and demand for jobs, commercial and industrial goods. Realistically understanding how an individual might feature in a city of 600,000 people is very difficult. I became disillusioned with life in the SimCity world, and turned to a game that I found to be more suited to controlling the individual: Football Manager.
Anyone who has played football manager will appreciate the intricate and detailed control you can exert over the members of your team. Whilst the game is as far removed from architecture as SimCity is from Football, the similarities between the job I now do and FM are great. For a start, you have to appreciate relationships and adaptation. Getting others to understand your vision, support that vision and ultimately learning to accept responsibility for seeing said vision through is the fundamental underpinning of the game, and to a certain extent, this job. Daily I must strive to sell my proposal to clients, colleagues and duty officers, making them understand that the decisions taken are in the best interest of all parties concerned and ultimately, will lead to a positive result.
The single most damaging element of FM that I discovered was the ability to edit the data you were working with, to essentially fix the game. My love of the game soon faded and was replaced by a need to win, at all costs. I cheated my way to titles, and unfortunately lost all sense of logical perspective.
But seriously, how does all this really relate to architecture and the real world? Video games are so detailed and in depth these days that they require you to think more about how you use them than they did 20 years ago. They all strive to make a point, eke out a view point through the (at times) vacuous game play. But they are so often a first point of contact for many young people, and as the range of game types ever increases, the influence they have over all aspects of life grows. Ideologically speaking, I take nothing meaningful from computer games, other than a sense that life is far more complex than the virtual world would have you believe, and to achieve anything meaningful takes resolve and focus. But strangely, they teach one very important lesson: Life is about goals, and devising ways to achieve them. Game play quite often teaches us alot of bad lessons, but it also helps to learn adaptability.
It turns out that real life is nothing much like a game. Its far more complex and detailed. Ultimately though, it comes down to the fact that life is unchangeable. Its about being adaptive and creative, making the most within the confines of life, law (and of course, gravity), and changing yourself to suit. You cannot change the parameters you are working within, however great the visionary goal. It’s impossible to apply large scale logic to small individual problems, no matter how plausible the concept may seem. Ultimately though, I’ve discovered that architecture is a complex mix of strategy, adaptation, planning and ideas. It is vital to take these ideas and turn them into positive, reasonable responses that will suit a single person, but benefit us all (oh, and I’ve learnt not to cheat).