Edito: Zeus. There is unrest in the city

Text: Mugur Grosu

There are those nagging, fly-like tunes that keep playing in your head, no matter how hard you tried to cast them away, they come back, time and again, and there’s no flyswatter to help you. The phrase in the title comes from the same place, it keeps coming back periodically, like a fly, and it keeps on troubling me, I can’t find the flyswatter. It started a few years back when, while cleaning up a box full of floppy disks and other digital antiquities, I came across a CD I could not place, only saying, in black marker, ZEUS. I could have expected anything but a game of the dial-up era that would get me fiercely hooked on in the smart era – as I played it for the first time.

A part of the City Building series, developed by Impression Games, the game “Zeus: Master of Olympus” consisted of building and developing a citadel in Ancient Greece, crossing, on this occasion, various strata of the Hellenistic civilization. My mission was to build, from zero to glory, the city of Thebes. It seemed easy at first: I erected the first settlements, protecting my little people from the Hydra, who was living in a quarry. The settlement kept on growing, and I needed marble if I was set on having civilization, so I was supposed to sort out the Hydra. But I could not do that with mere mortals, so I had to draw a hero to my city, pretty much the same way our city managers negotiated with the world’s best female handball player; I was only supposed to make the city attractive to Hercules, the only one who could do the Hydra in. And Mister Hero had the most bizarre requests: his new home was supposed to have excellent access to all the cultural institutions, and the city was to have a vast base of sport schools and to win a Pan-Hellenic game (like the Olympics). As for himself, he only wanted 32 amphorae of wine.

But, before all else, I was to take care of my citizens, who got cross for anything, stopped paying taxes or even left the city. And I would only get an alert: there is unrest in the city! And I was supposed to find what the hell was on fire and to set things right somehow. Are our philosophers lame? Unrest. Do we only have one theatre for five neighbourhoods? Each for himself and to the devil the rest. Are the schools a mess? Hit it. Are athletes only good for fly swatting? Bye. No trees caressing the neighbourhood’s windows, no birds’ song, no ripple of springs? Farewell. Are the roads that bad that a cult is prospering by preaching levitation? Make, give, cuddle them, create conditions for them! Get rid of the unrest!


Benevolent, I filled up the city with education, culture, and sports, I poured it on them, money was of no consequence, every working person had 4-5 parasites that drained my coffers, but behold the ever-present glitter of statues of monuments that I was planting like pansies! So what if the sportsmen were trampling the workers on the ever-narrowing roads, and the philosophers, oh, my, were doing nothing but stand in everyone’s way and fill their heads with nonsense until the people would run amok, and nobody felt like working. Oops, no money left? Never mind, I’ll increase taxes. It hasn’t worked? I’ll make more tax collectors, to force them to observe their duty as good citizens of the glorious metropolis. Why, I have only managed to increase the number of parasites, the coffers are filled with dust, and everyone has left the city in organized groups. Here’s your ghost city. I set my taxes to zero, and I managed to finally draw in some immigrants, I started from scratch once more and I discovered the planning, densification, and balance in burning my resources, and, up to the end, I managed to get the city out of its eternal unrest and myself out of insomnia.

There’s been some years now, but that on-screen alert keeps on haunting me every now and then. There’s no given day that, walking through Bucharest, the city of all unrest, I think of how nice it would be if, on their first day of work, city managers would play such a game. They could take it easy, but at least learn their ABC-s. For no one was born a city mayor, but everyone believed they were Zeus and turned out to be the Hydra.