Live and learn. But only if you afford a 40k+ annual tuition. (Image source: SimCity, Maxis/Electronic Arts, 2013).
Cultural critic and technology writer Emanuel Maiberg discusses How to get rid of homeless in a thought-provoking piece for VICE/Motherboard titled "Is SimCity's Homelessness a bug or a feature?". Here's the opening paragraph:
SimCity players have discussed a variety of creative strategies for their virtual homelessness problem. They’ve suggested waiting for natural disasters like tornadoes to blow the vagrants away, bulldozing parks where they congregate, or creating such a woefully insufficient city infrastructure that the homeless would leave on their own.
Below are two new audio excerpts from volume 1 and volume 2.
Today The Bold Italic published a depressing article which describes the harsh conditions of living in San Francisco if one is not part of the tech élite, that is, anybody who is not a white, affluent, male entrepreneur with connections to high-status agents, a pedigree from certain companies, a well-known Yoda-like mentor, and (preferably) a Stanford degree. In short, white men who have fully embraced the cultural logic of techno-neoliberalism and profess a blind faith in the myth of meritocracy.
As Alice E. Marwick writes in her book Status Update (2013):
The mythology of meritocracy has several ideological effects. It denies the role of personal connections, wealth, background, gender, race, or education in an individual’s success. If, for example, women (or people of color, or gay people) are not getting venture-capital funding at the same rate as men, the myth maintains, it is due to their lack of ability rather than institutional sexism. It also justifies immense wealth as the worthy spoils of the smartest and best. This libertarian bent may explain why wealthy technology workers are far less philanthropic than their “high society” counterparts; the mythology certainly implies that those mired in poverty are similarly deserving of their lowly status.
In short, homelessness is well deserved for those who cannot compete. In both Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, the governing principle is an uber-capitalistic Randyan ideology. The question remains: is homelessness a bug or a feature? Is there an app for that?
You did not purchase an health insurance because you cannot afford one? Too bad. It's game over for you. You just got "disrupted". (Image source: SimCity, Maxis/Electronic Arts, 2013).
The striking inequality of San Francisco, a city ideologically founded on and informed by the myth of meritocracy, did not escape the Bold Italic's contributor Jules Suzdaltsev, who argues that:
There is no question that San Francisco’s issues with wealth inequality are not getting better. As the wealthiest in the city continue raking in cash, the middle class is running far, far away, and the poorest are literally starving. Last year’s comparisons to developing nations like Rwanda might’ve seemed like a statistical fluke at the time, but the stark facts are in, and despite our rapidly deteriorating reputation as a haven for the less fortunate, the story on the streets is one of scarcity.
UPDATE On January 14, 2015, Maxis developer Pierre Guillame provided interesting contextual details about the social and cultural milieu in which SimCity was developed (source: Twitter). See below:
UPDATE: FEBRUARY 2015
In mid-February of 2015, The Big Issue wrote a feature story on How to get rid of homeless. In case you are not familiar with this publication, The Big Issue is a magazine sold by homeless and long-term unemployed people in the United Kingdom. Vendors buy copies for £1.25 and sell for £2.50. Originally launched in 1991, it is now available in several countries around the world.
Titled "SimCity and the lessons of fixing homelessness", this week's feature story on focuses on virtual and real homelessness. Writer Adam Forrest - who contacted me after the publication of How to get rid of homeless (2015) - has written a penetrating article on what happens when social conditions are simulated for entertainment purposes.
Here is an excerpt:
UPDATE: MARCH 2015
Aaron Sankin wrote a long piece on homelessness and simulation for Kernel Magazine. Titled "Everything I know about homelessness I learned from SimCity", the article appeared on March 1, 2015. Here's an excerpt:
The April 2015 issue of Harper's magazine has published an excerpt from my book. You can read it here.
GAME OVER FOR MAXIS
On March 4 2015, Electronic Arts has announced its decision to "consolidate" (read: shut down) Maxis Studios, the Emeryville-based studio that developed SimCity.
Founded in 1987 by Will Wright and Jeff Braun and acquired by Electronic Arts ten years later, Maxis has produced five episodes of the popular urban simulation.
The game designers that simulated homelessness for fun are now house-less.
If you needed a further proof that America is, indeed, a tragic videogame, here it is.
"I giocatori di SimCity hanno discusso di una grande varietà di strategie creative per risolvere il problema dei senzatetto virtuali. Alcuni hanno pensato di aspettare disastri naturali come un tornado che spazzasse via i vagabondi, di distruggere con dei bulldozer i parchi dove si riuniscono o creare un'infrastruttura cittadina così scadente che i senzatetto se ne sarebbero andati volontariamente.
Potete leggere tutte queste proposte in How to Get Rid of Homeless, redatto da Matteo Bittanti “un testo epico in due volumi che documenta il cosiddetto “scandalo degli homeless” che ha affetto SimCity nel 2013.”
“Ho iniziato ad accorgermi che la discussione sui senzatetto in SimCity era molto più interessante di SimCity stesso, perché le persone parlavano del problema in un modo, come posso dire, non razzista, non classista ma molto particolare,” mi ha detto Bittanti, professore dello IULM di Milano che per sette anni ha fatto il docente nella Bay Area." (Emanuel Maiberg, Vice Italia)
LINK: Emanuel Malberg's La indigencia en ‘SimCity’: ¿un error o una característica del diseño del juego? (Vice Spain, in Spanish)
LINK: Emanuel Malberg, "Come mi libero dei senzatetto" (Vice Italy, in Italian)
LINK: Adam Forrest's "SimCity and the lessons of fixing homelessness" (The Big Issue)
LINK: "Is SimCity's homelessness a bug or a feature?" (Emanuel Maiberg, Vice/Motherboard)
LINK: "Virtual debates about homelessness in Sim City hold up a mirror to real life" (Alex Herne, The Guardian)
LINK: "This Guy Wrote a 600-page book on homelessness in SimCity" (Rob Price, Business Insider)
LINK: "Virtual Realty: Homeless in SimCity" (Lamar Anderson, SF Curbed)
LINK: "Homeless oder Beauty im Digitalen" (Harald Taglinger, Telepolis, in German)
LINK: "SimCity Players Take a Dim View of the Virtual Needy" (Belinda Lanks, BusinessWeek)
LINK: "Cet homme a écrit un livre de 600 pages sur les SDF dans SimCity" (Journal Du Net, in French)