Man Builds Boston In Video Game, Internet Finally Discovers It Six Years Later

Phil Boucher is a self-described “architecture nerd.” And while part of that means marveling and photographing the beautiful buildings around Boston, it also means recreating the entire city as accurately as possible in the video game Sim City 4.

Sim City allows you to create and maintain your own virtual city. The player can terraform land, build buildings, create parks, and put in place all the necessities to have a fully functioning, successful city. For an avid architecture fan like Boucher, this game was a must-have.

But instead of building his own city with his own plans, Boucher decided he wanted to create an homage to Boston by recreating Boston in-game. He named the city, affectionately, "Beantown."

Boucher initially built the virtual city back in 2006 and posted it onto ArchBoston – an online forum dedicated to Boston architecture; however, his work is now seeing a new audience after a random Internet user posted the photos on the popular website Reddit where it received a significant amount of attention on the Boston subreddit.

“At the time [I created Beantown] I was freshly dropped out of Berklee, unemployed and without a girl,” Boucher said in an e-mail. “Needless to say I had plenty of time for random creative outlets.”

Boucher says he spent around 8 hours working on re-creating the city. And while he didn’t use a map, he admits he was very well versed on the streets of Boston.

“My map set was simply the knowledge of the city I had attained over the year and a half I had been in Boston,” recalls Boucher. “I was doing lots of reading about its history, its architecture, its land creation – you name it.”

The result is the realistic recreation of Boston shown above. But the game has its limitations and Boucher had to take some liberties.

For instance, some of the buildings Boucher used to represent Boston skyscrapers – like the Prudential Center – are merely reminiscent of the actual building, but probably more closely resemble the Empire State Building. Still, as a place holder, it’s clear what he was going for.

"It's also recognizable," wrote Reddit user Quazman. "The overview, the common, faneuil hall, even mission hill were all definitely recognizable."

Boucher notes that one of the more complicated aspects of recreating Boston was how to keep the virtual city a bustling metropolis.

“I was using a couple basic [game modifications] like ‘Increase Commercial Office Demand’ to spur growth that I could then mold based on how densely I zoned areas,” Boucher said. “As in, keep Beacon Hill low density but let downtown blossom.”

Now, Boucher says he doesn’t play Sim City nearly as much as he used to back in 2006. He’s found other creative outlets – like drumming in the popular Boston-based rock group Gentlemen Hall. And while he didn’t contribute to Boston’s real-world skyline, he did say he at least got one or two “golf claps” from the architecture community on the ArchBoston forum.

This program aired on September 13, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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Nate Goldman Social Media Producer
Nate Goldman was formerly a social media producer at WBUR.



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