Rebuilding ‘Sim City’ Video Game To Account For Climate Change

I’ve never been much of a video gamer. But the one game I played endlessly growing up was Sim City, in which you become a city planner and simulate constructing your own community from scratch.

This was where I got my first understanding of zoning, taxes, and traffic control. I also learned about the powerful economic impact of natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, which could rip apart sections of a city.

And with the new version of SimCity, a new generation of gamers will learn another lesson: how development choices influence the environment. According to the vice president of the studio developing the latest iteration of the game, climate change will now be a factor, reports Physorg:

“We are updating SimCity with technology of today and introducing it to a new generation of gamers,” Maxis studio senior vice president Lucy Bradshaw said at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

“It gets under your skin; exposes you to the idea of cause and effect and that choices you make have repercussions,” she said.

Along with rich 3-D graphics, the game will have a new simulation engine that enhances its realism and extends ramifications of urban design decisions past borders to affect neighboring cities.

“In ‘SimCity’ resources are finite, you struggle with decisions people are struggling with today in the real world and your decisions can have a global impact,” Bradshaw said.

“Be a polluter and you are ultimately going to affect your friends’ cities… Will you have the wealthiest, fittest, greenest city ever or the sludgiest, most yikes-worthy SimCity ever?”

Frankly, I’m surprised that it took so long to get this new element into SimCity. But I’m really happy to hear that users will now have a more realistic experience when playing the game. Actions have consequences; and I learned that very early on when designing my first cities.

More and more game designers are adding climate education themes to their games. Recently,  Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project teamed up with PSFK Consultants to encourage designers to consider climate and environmental themes. Here’s a speech and roundtable discussion featuring Gore talking about this new trend:

Gaming For Good from Piers Fawkes on Vimeo.

8 Responses to Rebuilding ‘Sim City’ Video Game To Account For Climate Change

  1. GreenITGuy says:

    Years ago, in my introductory college Astronomy course, we were tasked with playing through a cycle of the old game “SimEarth”. In this precursor to the “Sim” games, you began with a bare planet, and had tools at your disposal to spark intelligence among the early life forms, terraform, or otherwise perform planetary engineering to transform the planet into a new form. A very instructive and entertaining game, which I wish were still available somewhere. It was an extremely useful general simulation for seeing how small changes in the initial conditions magnify over geologic time spans.

  2. Paul Magnus says:

    Time to get a copy…

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Wow i think i have to play this game again. The first time i played SIM CITY was on an Amiga Commodore 1000 o.O

    Btw i met once a guy who made a fork..

    SimCity’s Source Code Released Under GPL

  4. Chris Winter says:

    “Frankly, I’m surprised that it took so long to get this new element into SimCity.”

    I suspect they had to wait for processor speed and memory capacity to reach the point where decent results could be attained in a reasonable playing time. (And only then write the code to take advantage of those resources.)

    This relates to the “GodGame,” a simulation that runs on supercomputers. It’s mentioned in passing in Robert Nadeau’s 2006 book The Environmental Endgame. He describes it as “a computer simulation of the world’s environment being developed by Electronic Arts.”

  5. Chris Winter says:

    Ah, the Commodore Amiga — forgotten (by most) but not gone. I didn’t understand, back in its heyday, how far ahead of its time it was.

  6. Neil says:

    The impact of pollution is not a new thing at all in Sim City…in fact, Sim games were how I got exposed to these ideas in the first place-around the age of 9 or 10. Also, I found Sim Life somewhere on the interwebs for free, so I’m sure Sim Earth is somewhere out there as well.

  7. Jaigo says:

    SimEarth, an old DOS program, can be downloaded from several existing sites. Just google SimEarth.