Ah, Simcity. Yup, that's the chapter I'm currently working on, and learning all kinds of neat stuff about Will Wright. There are tons of interviews with him on the net, perhaps because he attracted so much attention from journalists and teachers. I really, really love his approach to game design--read up on some fascinating academic research, then see if you can find a way to make a game out of it. There's no telling how many great ideas for games are sitting there on the science journal shelves of your local library, just dying for someone like Wright to come along!
So far, I've been talking about the history of the game, which Wright had a hard time getting published. What I read suggests he had the C-64 version first, which must have been the original. I know it looks similar to Raid on Bungeling Bay, and has the worst graphics of any of the ports I'm aware of. I think what happened was Broderbund finally dumped some money on the project to let him hire some audiovisual talent for the other ports. If anyone has info on this, please let me know, because I've had a hard time finding anything reliable.
One thing I'm trying to answer is what makes the game fun. I think it's mostly the thrill of building up such an integrated system, then observing the effects of experiments or random events. It's sort of like an ant farm (and there's even a Simant, I know). These games really make you think logistically on a systems-wide scale, and while there's no "goal," it's still fun to play with all these (city) blocks!
I really loved Simcity back in the day, but sadly lost touch with it after Simcity 2000. The newer games just keep looking like more of the same, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but I was kinda tired of it. I did play lots of A-Train on my Amiga, but never got into the tycoon games. I also haven't played The Sims, which I've heard mixed reports about (though it's sold extremely well). I am very excited about Spore and waiting (ahem) for Mark to give us a review!!!
Anyway, sound off on your experiences with the Sims games. Do you think they're educational? Addictive? Or maybe just a fad? Also: Do you see these games tying into Civilization, or is that a totally different thing? I'm also interested to hear from people who played Utopia and/or Fortune Builder and what they think about the connections there.