There's a beautiful article in the New Yorker about the popular new city-building game Cities: Skylines—I admire any reference to Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities" made in a conversation about video games, so good work, Simon Parkin.
Part of the fun in city-building is when you, an ordinary idle player of games, come up on the same kind of compromises, of infrastructural impossibilities, that plague real-world cities, and you sometimes realize the problems of your physical world are more complicated than they seem. Apparently part of the popularity of Cities: Skylines is that it's suited to the streaming world, and people like to watch others build:
Although Cities: Skylines builds on the template of Wright’s concept, it adds numerous features of its own, including a realistic traffic system that accommodates genuine transportation-planning strategies.
The game has also, according to its designer, Karoliina Korppoo, benefitted from timing; game streaming, whereby a player broadcasts her activity online and comments on it, has become wildly popular. “Skylines is an excellent game to stream,” Korppoo said. “It’s slow-paced, allowing time to explain your plans while creating weird and wonderful things. This was not something we planned—it just happened naturally.”
In Calvino's book, Marco Polo describes 55 cities to Kublai Khan, and because they don't speak the same language, the descriptions are abstract, image-rich. It's almost a video game-like book, in that the prose encourages you to build the described places in your head. I don't know if this is open to interpretation or not, but when I read it with a friend we thought the story was just 55 ways of describing Venice, the city of Venice through 55 different perspectives. That would be especially relevant to the game cities we build in our imagination, where if we all tried to build, say, London, one would never be quite the same as another.
You can buy Cities: Skylines in either a "standard" or "deluxe" edition on digital storefronts. And if you like Simon Parkin's writing, as we do, he also has a new book out you might be interested in.