Cities: Skylines is basically brain cancer or something

Hello reader. I have to shamefully admit that I’ve been woefully unproductive the past couple of days. Also weeks, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is the aforementioned past couple of days. I like to do at least some writing every single day but recently it’s been rather hard for me because I’ve been playing Cities: Skylines (which from here on out I’m going to address as just “Skylines” because come the fuck on). I like games in which I can make things grow and watch them develop over time. I love Football Manager with all its graphs and numbers and the history of the fake world I have running on my computer. I’ve sunk hours I could have spent curing cancer or working on friendly AI playing Paradox games. It’s probably my brain’s way of compensating for the fact that I’ve never actually achieved anything in real life. Here I can at least make some virtual people tell me that I am the best manager/king/mayor/whatever that ever was and feel good about myself for those few glorious moments before the crushing realisation that I am pathetic little man and never will amount to anything and also that I am currently occupying a speck of dust floating through space vastly bigger than anything I will ever be able to comprehend (if not outright infinitely big) and none of my actions or anything that I ever have or will care about matters.

That makes management and strategy games an important part of my life as you can imagine and indeed it’s the part where Skylines currently reigns supreme. And the reason why I chose to drown you in the literary vomit up there is that that game fills me with horrible existential dread.

It starts innocently enough: you get a highway connection and a plain on which to build your city. You plan out a road. You zone some residential areas. People move in. The population growth unlocks more and more different services and needs that the small artificial humans have. You grow, you expand, you feel good about yourself. Then you notice that there’s an intersection in the very middle of your city that’s very inefficiently constructed and it causes horrendous traffic jams and you can’t rebuild it without screwing your whole road system and you delete your save file and you start over.

The above happened to me for something like four times. And it’s not going to end there. This is insane. This game causes me pain, stress and frustration. Oh, it’s not like there is no pleasure to find in it. It hooks you up in the beginning, being all nice and easy, letting you watch the little buildings spring up and the little cars whizz around. Then it kicks you in the stomach and laughs. I hate it. But the horrible truth is, I hate myself. I don’t have to worry about those fucking traffic jams. I could just let them be. My cities aren’t that horrible. They’re mostly functional. But it doesn’t matter. Mostly functional is not enough. I will never be satisfied with mostly functional. It has to be perfect. The roads have to be arranged in precise little grids (no matter how awful they look and how much I hate them in real life) because it’s the most efficient way to do it. I’m just psychotic. And you know what the worst thing is? It doesn’t end. There’s no goal in sight. You just build and build and build and build until you either run out of space or kill yourself. Or, most likely, restart over and over. When you’re playing a video game with a plot you can at least pretend there’s a point to it, that you’re working towards something. But in Skylines and other games like it you just make the city grow, like a deadly inoperable cancer in your brain. What is wrong with me?


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