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What if we told you that certain video games could inspire eco-friendly behaviours?
You’ve probably heard of The Sims. The highly-popular gaming franchise from the early 00’s that allows you to design your own avatar, build your own house, and live out your wildest dreams!
Last month, The Sims released an ‘Eco Lifestyle’ Expansion Pack! This expansion pack introduces players to Evergreen Harbor — a place where Sims have a direct influence on the state of the environment.
Your Sims can participate in a whole range of eco-friendly activities: like producing their own electricity and water with renewable energy resources, growing their own food at home in a vertical garden, using the Recycler to break down unwanted items into reusable components, and dumpster diving to find a new TV, a table, a bed, and other newly recycled decor.
Sounds cool, right? The Sims producer and developer, George Pigula, says that “every neighbourhood [in the game] has its own eco-footprint that most interactions feed into,” and depending on what your Sim does, it has to live with the consequences of its actions.
“Your neighbourhood could be on the industrial end with a bit more smog and pollution: this gives bonuses to power generation, fuel-burning slower, and maybe a few more trash piles. Or you can go green and have your solar panels produce more power, your plants grow better ingredients, and you get to marvel at auroras overhead. Power and water utilities now have to be managed. You can continue to buy your power and water off of the grid, or you can generate it yourself. You will have to choose green options or fuel-burning options, and then live with the consequences of each,” he says.
There’s no particular way that you have to play the game; it’s up to you as the player! But, along the way, it gently reminds you that your actions [even in a virtual world] can heal or harm the environment around you.
Video games represent one of the fastest-growing media trends, with an estimated 2.5 billionpeople playing them globally.
Many aspects of life are “going green”, and the video game industry is no exception! The use of video games for educational purposes is also on the rise, so it’s no surprise that sustainability education is making its way into the virtual world. The Sims 4 ‘Eco Lifestyle’ Expansion Pack points to a larger trend of new games that promote sustainable practices.
‘Eco’, developed by Strange Loop Games, is all about building a civilisation with the resources around you and protecting the ecosystem.
In most survival games, how you treat the environment around you has little bearing on the game — but in Eco — chopping down too many trees can destroy animal habitats, polluting rivers or the ocean with garbage can affect agriculture, and a disruption in one area of the ecosystem impacts other areas around the globe!
Survival games like Eco encourage players to live and develop sustainably, which is a pretty good message to get across to gamers of any age.
In March, Minecraft released a remote learning toolkit for kids all around the world. The 2020 Minecraft Education Challenge encourages school communities to run innovative Minecraft ‘build challenges’, with themes ranging from sustainability, renewable energy and urban planning to historical preservation and post-disaster reconstruction. The whole aim is to ‘Build A Better World’, which we think is a great goal — even in a virtual world!
Looking for more eco-educational games? Games4Sustainabilityhas an awesome ‘Gamepedia’, with 100+ sustainability-themed games and simulations for teaching, learning or leisure.
Positive change is happening on a larger scale, too. In late 2019, multi-billion-dollar companies like Sony (creator of PlayStation) and Microsoft (creator of Xbox) formally committed to tackling climate change with their enormous platforms.
According to the UN Environment Programme, these commitments from 21 companies will result in a 30 million tonne reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030, will see millions of trees planted, new ‘green nudges’ in game design and improvements to energy management, packaging, and device recycling”.
“The video games industry has the ability to engage, inspire and captivate the imaginations of billions of people across the world. This makes them a hugely important partner in addressing the climate emergency,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Source:unenvironment.org
We love seeing the potential of video games as an eco-educational tool to inspire the next generation!