Sunday, December 26, 2004


I have played Sim City off and on for 10 years -- mostly off. The simulation game is wonderful. The process of building a city's infrastructure -- power, water, roads, schools, hospitals, etc. is involving. It teaches the tradeoffs one must make to keep a population happy and productive.

This year, my daughter got the new Sim City 2004 for Christmas. It's not an easy game, and she is nine, but we started working on the city of "Maples." We are already up to 1200 people with a high mayoral rating. Most importantly, my daughter is engrossed and discussing where to put roads, power, fire and police stations. She checks the mayor's popularity rating more often than I do, but then, she is the mayor. She cycles through graphs checking crime and population and pollution with the sophistication of an urban planner.

In the middle of this, it occurred to me again that such simulations are outstanding PR vehicles. One can show target audiences relationships between everything in a complex system.

I'm not sure how one would simulate a typical PR campaign, however. How about the client who is never satisfied no matter what one does? Score a major placement, and the client is angry because of something in the piece. Fail to score a major placement, and the client is furious. Watch your main event go sour when suddenly a news event takes over the media. Scramble to adapt the program. Grab a sudden opportunity and look like a hero. Random disaster and random success in spite of the best planning.

Few would play the game for long.


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