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An extensive look at Maxis’ short stint in serious simulation games

“Almost nothing they developed was ever released to the public. But their software raises questions about the role we want games to play in society.”

– Phil Salvador shares the story of Maxis Business Simulations, built from his own years of interviews and research

If you’ve got time for a long read about a beloved game maker’s foray into for-hire simulation games for the likes of Chevron and the EPA, The Obscuritory has you covered. 

Game history researcher and librarian Phil Salvador has published his incredibly in-depth report on Maxis Business Simulations, a SimCity-encouraged endeavor in which Maxis took aim at developing simulations for business use rather than entertainment.

Those games were, largely, built on the same framework as SimCity, but aimed to take a less fun-focused approach toward simulation. The first was SimRefinery, a game commissioned by Chevron to model and teach how different systems in an oil refinery interacted with one another. That initial project opened the door to other simulations, often with lofty goals, pitched to model things like the impact of pollution or the complexities of the health care system to varying degrees of success.

Salvador’s report in its entirety combines snippets of old digital artifacts with his own interviews with those involved collected over the span of several years. By doing so, he captures examples of games like SimEnergy, SimEnvironment, and SimSite that never truly saw the light of day or had their physical copies outright destroyed and otherwise erased from history.