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Playing SimCity 3000 hazardous to your health?

By Wren Weburg
6/27/99

Some games have a way of growing on us. We play them and play them, and before you know it, it's time to hang up the game controller or mouse and either eat, sleep, go to work, or go to school. Strategy and building games like SimCity are no exception, and are often the most engrossing due to their intrigue and longevity.

Quake II
First person games like Quake and Doom have been known to cause motion sickness. Could SimCity cause problems, too?
Withdrawing from a heated gaming battle or a mayoral session is often tough to do, but with parents screaming at you to stop or other work beckoning you to quit, or perhaps the sandman tugging at your eyelids at 3:00 AM, there really isn't a choice.

So, what about the lingering effects of a gaming session? Have you ever seen SimCity 3000 city grids in your eyes after playing? Have you ever gone to bed thinking about how you were going to make more SimMoney so you could build that new baseball park for your adoring Sims, only to be left tired the next day from staying up late? Chances are, every SimMayor has had this happen at one point or another. But what if it was a serious problem? Many industry analysts have known about the effects of gaming, both in the short-term and long-term. For example, 3D first-person games like Doom have been known to cause motion sickness. Not to mention the particular mindset that such a game can leave you in. You know what I'm talking about. Your palms sweat after a duel with an enemy MiG, you feel the anger and need for revenge after being fragged in a death match, etc. Could the SimCity games, including SimCity 3000, have similar effects?

It may sound silly, but who knows how many people have been victim to sleep deprivation, hunger, or more seriously, nausea or other undesirable symptoms. I started thinking about the plausibility after receiving an e-mail from a fellow SimCity 3000 player. The author's name is being concealed:

"Last night I played SC3000 for about six hours. When I finally went to bed I couldn't get the screen out of my head. Now today, every time I close my eyes all I see is the SimCity grid. It's like it burned itself into some part of my brain. Why is this happening? Should I be concerned? What are the long term effects of playing this game on a regular basis? Please let me now ASAP, because I just started to make money with my city and I'm dying to play again, but I don't want to risk destroying parts of my brain."

To be honest, I've never really been asked a question like that, but it really did get me thinking. In my response, I stated that playing SimCity wasn't likely to cause any long-term damage, but if the symptoms persisted or got worse, that consulting a doctor might not be a terribly bad idea.

After posting this article, I asked for--and received--several responses from readers. For the follow-up to this article, see "RE: SimCity 3000 hazardous to your health?".

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