Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

more online development games

I’ve posted below two more online games that I probably should have included in my earlier post on sustainable development games. At some point I may collect all these into a single page of gaming and simulation resources.

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Jason: Energy City

JASON is a project sponsored by National Geographic that seeks to motivate students (K-12) to learn about science. The Energy City game focuses on sustainable development issues:

The sun rises over the bustling city. Buses rumble by, cars creep down the street, and buzzing alarm clocks prompt sleepy residents to flip a switch and get ready for their day. This is a routine familiar to city-dwellers around the world. Right now, many of those cars, buses, and lights are powered using non-renewable energy resources. But that won’t always be the case. To create a sustainable future, you will need to design a new energy portfolio to sustain the city into the future. Are you up to the challenge?

It is set in the context of the industrialized world, with options (such as fuel cell research and nuclear power plants) that don’t apply in most development contexts. However, the game play is fluid, intuitive, informative, and complex, with players required to balance economic costs, air quality, and general environmental conditions, as well as demands from stakeholder groups. Very well done (and fun to play too)—indeed, the basic mechanics could easily be adapted to other social and economic challenges.

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Ayiti: The Cost of Life

The focus here is not on sustainable development per se, but rather on the economic barriers to education in Haiti (and, by extension, other low income countries. According to the developers:

Global Kids’ Ayiti: The Cost of Life was funded by the Microsoft Corporations US Partners in Learning and designed in collaboration between Global Kids Playing 4 Keeps program’s youth leaders at South Shore High School in Brooklyn, NY and the game design company GameLab.

The biggest design challenge was creating a game that realistically and sensitively illuminated the challenges posed by poverty in daily life (specifically, in the pursuit for the global right to an education) but that was still truly enjoyable and satisfying to play. Extending this challenge, it was imperative that the game be replayable such that each session would expose to the player more of the subtleties of the relationships between the different underlying economies. The economies of the game are balanced with such guile that at first the game seems unbeatable. We assure you, though, there are ways to keep your entire family healthy and happy and educated!

I don’t doubt that there are ways to win, but honesty forces me to acknowledge that I wasn’t able to to keep the (simulated) kids in school—they were pulled out to work when some of the family fell ill, and in the end everyone died of cholera…

The website also includes resource and curriculum materials for teachers.

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