This talk explores the history and nature of computer simulation by unraveling the history of one of the most influential simulation games ever made: "SimCity." To build it, Will Wright appropriated from multiple traditions in which computers are used as tools for modeling and thinking about the world as a complex system, most notably system dynamics and cellular automata. Because of this, "SimCity" is a microcosm of the history and culture of computer simulation, and so in talking about it, we engage with questions, themes, and representational techniques that reach back to the dawn of computation.
What makes a simulation tick? How does it operate as culture, and arise from a combustible mix of the concrete and the imaginary? What does it mean to study software as a culture practice? Software simultaneously veils the inner workings of computers and produces new apparent surfaces, which poses methodological problems for scholars and historians. What is software, and how should we address the challenges of studying it? And why are these urgent questions not just for historians, but designers of games and software systems?
Chaim Gingold is a designer and theorist who creates and studies powerful representations for playing with, learning about, and reshaping the world. His work ranges from creating playful experiences, like the "Spore Creature Creator" and "Earth: A Primer," to studying play and its role in the history of technology. He is currently leading the design team for "Hack," a Linux based laptop that encourages kids to code by letting them hack everything. His doctorate was awarded from UC Santa Cruz for studying play and its role in the history of computers. He is currently writing the definitive history of the seminal simulation title "SimCity." You can learn more about Gingold and his projects at http://chaim.io.