With recent news that the much loved Sim City franchise will receive a reboot after a ten year absence, much focus is being directed to a new multiplayer function that will place the cities next to one another and force the players to cooperate when dealing with inter-jurisdictional problems like climate change and renewable energy. As one blogger saw it, gamers will have to work together or “compete greedily for resources and to hell with Mother Earth.”
I’ll withhold judgment on the game itself until it’s released but the idea itself is intriguing. As a nerdy kid, one of my favorite Sim games was SimSafari which, from what I can remember, did a decent job of simulating the balancing act of wilderness park management including community outreach, tourist accommodations, and poaching. If the newest iteration of Sim City takes a similar, balanced approach and recognizes the limited effect that localized planning can have on a global phenomenon, it could be an effective educational exercise. What would be disappointing is if the issue was simplified to such a degree that the only way to stop hurricanes would be to build solar panels.
Energy and climate change are complex issues, but it could be possible to include them as factors within the game without creating relationships that are beyond what is currently understood about local impacts.
If you can’t wait for the game to come out and are interested in a simplified energy planning simulation, I’d suggest you check out Electrocity. Electrocity is an educational module created by Genesis Energy in New Zealand. While it definitely has its own biases, it is a fun way of engaging people young and old about the tradeoffs inherent in energy production and economic growth.