A recent posting on the socialissuegames list highlighted a number of online games now available focusing on issues of sustainable development. Most are aimed at youth and young adults, and almost fall into the category of what might be termed “advocacy” or “consciousness raising” games rather than educational simulations—that is, they present a view that highlights key normative, social, and economic issues, but don’t necessarily involve a very detailed or realistic view of how particular economic or policy processes operate. nevertheless, many are quite useful in highlighting what these sorts of serious games can do, and several are quite enjoyable too. I haven’t played through all of them yet, but here is a quick sampler:
Third World Farmer
3rd World Farmer is a new kind of game. An experiment in the genre of Serious Games, it aims at simulating the real-world mechanisms that cause and sustain poverty in 3rd World countries.
In the game, the player gets to manage an African farm, and is soon confronted with the often difficult choices that poverty and conflict necessitate. We find this kind of experience efficient at making the issues relevant to people, because players tend to invests their hopes in a game character whose fate depends on him. We aim at making the player “experience” the injustices, rather than being told about them, so as to stimulate a deeper and more personal reflection on the topics.
We think the game has the potential to be an eye-opener to people who have become accustomed to the ordinary means of communicating third world desperation. Our aim is to have everybody play the game, reflect, discuss and act on it. The game is well suited to start off discussions about 3rd World issues, so we also encourage teachers to use it in their classes.
Although the current version of the game is finished and fully playable, we will continue developing the game, updating and adding new content so as to get as rich and well-nuanced a simulation as possible. We would like our forums to be a place where discussions arise and solutions to real-world problems are suggested.
The story behind 3rd World Farmer
The first prototype of the game was developed as a students’ project at the IT-University in Copenhagen, Spring 2005. All initial participants were actively involved in shaping the original concept to a playable game. Actually, the very most of the game features have been discussed by the entire group until a fitting solution was agreed upon.
The positive evaluation and feedback from user testing inspired some of us to continue developing the game and to publish it online in its current version. Our work to shape the prototype into a fully playable game has so far involved meetings and correspondence with relief agencies and game professionals….
This is certainly a nicely executed game, with fluid intuitive game play, and news items that both affect game play and inform. Very well done. I must admit, however, I got much of my initial investment capital growing opium poppies for a year!
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According to its authors:
LogiCity is a fun interactive computer game with a difference. Aimed at young people under 25, it’s a game set in a 3D virtual city with five main activities where players are set the task of reducing the carbon footprint of an average resident. As players work their way through the game they will pick up information about Climate Change, and some of the main ways in which everyone is currently contributing to the emissions of the main greenhouse gas (CO2) that causes Climate Change.
It only runs, however, on Internet Explorer… which for us Mac people, is rather akin to an alien plague. I wasn’t able to try it.
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A series of children’s game around the issue of energy conservation:
Help defeat the energy wasting Baron Fossilosis. He has cast a spell on the world turning it into a dark and dirty place.
Only the Eco-Rangers can save the day. Together with the brave Professor Green and faithful J0b0t you must stop his army of wasters and save the planet.
The EcoRangers seem to work for greenhouse gas-producing British Gas, which suggests to me that Prof. Green might be greenwashing just a little bit. I wonder if he’s played Logicity?
British Gas also sponsor the EnConCity game, which focuses on energy conservation.
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Of course, you don’t need to depend on British Gas alone, since Chevron also stands ready to teach you about environmental sustainability! The game itself was developed by the Economist Group, however, and does a fair job of highlighting the economic, environmental, and energy production tradeoffs involved with different energy sources.
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Planet Green Game
Brought to us by Starbucks.. am I noticing a certain corporate pattern here?
Starbucks and Global Green USA collaborated on the Planet Green Game to educate the public about climate change through engaging and informative game play while encouraging individuals to become part of the solution in their own lives. The game also assists individuals – through simple tools and links – in advocating action by elected officials, business and
Game play involves traversing the city using various ecologically sensible devices… I used a skateboard (which, of course, is ideally suited to green commuting here in Montreal in February), and traveled to the local hardware store where I played a match-the-tiles game involving compact fluorescent bulbs. Move over, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, this is exciting stuff!
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A simple SimCity type game, in which you try to grow your own little city in an environmentally-sustainable way (to inspiring background music):
Project Enercities offers a serious gaming – learning platform for young people (typical target group: 15-20 years) to experience energy-related implications. The goal is to create and expand virtual cities dealing with pollution, energy shortages, renewable energy etc.
The development of the serious game is based on state of the art technologies and insights. The game is fully web-based, 3D perspective (via Unity3D plug-in) and is suitable to play on low-budget computers. The game offers a semi-realistic simulation with game-like visual styles (cartoony) and low entry barriers (easy to understand; multiple levels in order to bring-in more complexity). All these approaches enable a wide distribution of the Enercities serious game across Europe.
Cofunded by the EU’s Intelligent Energy Europe initiative, the project description can be found here.
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I just love the name of this… detoxifying an Australian water catchment area just seems a no-brainer for an online game, doesn’t it?
Play Catchment Detox to see if you successfully manage a river catchment and create a sustainable and thriving economy.
It’s an online game where you’re in charge of the whole catchment. You get to decide what activities you undertake – whether to plant crops, log forests, build factories or set up national parks. The aim is to avoid environmental problems and provide food and wealth for the population.
Managing Australia’s waterways is a huge challenge with climate change, increased demand for water and environmental problems putting our rivers under stress. Catchment Detox gives an idea of just how difficult it is to manage a river catchment.
Are you up for the challenge?
I’m not sure I have the stamina to play through all 100 turns, but I did have an opportunity to cut down forests, engage in intense ranching, and otherwise inflict environmental damage in the once beautiful PaxSims River Valley.