Why do we do the things we do? Why, for example, does a grown man play a game like The Simpsons Tapped Out? Endless tapping of pixels, to earn imaginary money, to buy more pixels. All to create an imaginary city that can only be glimpsed a few pixels at a time.
There are several possible explanations...
First, there is the artistic challenge. Artists thrive on constraints, and here there are many. You can't create new elements, only arrange those that are given you. You can't just put them anywhere; there are rigid rules. And you must suffer: each piece takes real time and effort to acquire.
Then there is the beauty of the pixels themselves. Each building, each statue, each reindeer, freak show tent, wax museum, tire fire, gently wafting parade balloon, ferris wheel, and penitentiary, is drawn in exquisite detail by crazy-good graphic artists. Each one a work of art.
Add to this the thrill of the hunt and the joys of acquisition. The sweet anticipation of each new piece, pressing your nose against the store glass window, scrimping and saving and finally buying it, having it, turning it back-and-forth and zooming in close to revel in its full isometric glory, then placing it, ever so carefully, in just the right place.
After eighteen months of this I've created quite a little city, full of whimsical juxtapositions, intricate landscaping, and many small triumphs of city planning.
Two things worry me, though. Because it lives in the game company's cloud, the whole thing could vanish in instant without leaving a trace - as indeed happened to a friend of mine. After so much work, it would be nice to have a little momento to remember my city by.
And the other thing is: I've never been able to see my own city - not all at once. I can pan freely across it, but can only zoom out partway. It's like painting a mural but only being able to see it through a keyhole. How I long to step back and drink in the whole thing.
Hence, the map. It was not easy to make. I had to precisely piece together and overlap hundreds of screenshots - hard to do when some of the elements are moving. And it was unwieldy: full resolution would require a billion pixels and a printout seventeen feet wide. Even my medium resolution version couldn't possibly display in your browser.
But I can share this approximation. You can't see all the fine details, but you can zoom in close enough to tell the buildings apart. And, gloriously, you can zoom up, up, up, 50,000 feet in the air, and see the whole thing at once, something you cannot begin to do in the game itself. Tap thumbnail to see full map:
Note: game aficionados will notice something very strange about this Springfield. I long ago exiled all the wacky Simpsons characters and penned them up, making them mill back-and-forth along a windy road on the edge of town. This is a whim of mine, an abuse of my Godlike power, but it did make it easier to capture a map of the city.