Way back in the mid-90s it was Mick who introduced me to one of my favourite video games of all time. It has weathered the years very well. It might even be the Monopoly of the computer game generation, and for precisely the same reasons. Transport Tycoon lacks all the sophisticated graphics and high octane stimulation of the later console games, but then this was never a game about the speed and the action. Transport Tycoon is all about the stimulation of another sense pleasure – greed. From the start to the finish the objective is to make as much money as possible, and to do this by first out performing competitors and then by undermining them and making even more money from their destruction. It’s true that you never get to fire a gun or command a squad of soldiers, but the effect of watching your bank balance grow and see the terrible fate of towns and cities is, quite frankly, thrilling. This was one of the very few games I brought with me to Ireland over a decade ago, and now – 20 years on – it is still a game that I like to revisit for the thrill of the chase.
What I think makes this game so appealing is a meeting of a number of things that we find enjoyable. At the surface it allows us to have a right good play with the most amazing train set in the world. We can set schedules to meet the rising and falling demands of the economy, and we can get a few hours of artificial success and a wash in the glow of power. Psychologically artificial power and success are every bit as rewarding as the real thing, so it is easy to find oneself completely addicted to the game, and that is the key to a great video game. At a deeper level the games bothers me – more than those games where we get the chance to wander about a digital world murdering people – because in the course of the game we find ourselves being trained into a strange way of thinking. Having now witnessed some of the real-world psychotic behaviour of corporations, Transport Tycoon has given us an insight into the twisted logic of corporate thinking. Too often the lives of real people and communities get in the way of big business making money, and more often than not corporate industry wins.