SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge

A modified version of SimCity designed to teach systems thinking.

SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge Screenshots

SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge (GlassLab, 2016) is a modified version of the commercial SimCity game. Players are put in the role of city mayor, doing the challenging work of addressing environmental impact while balancing the employment needs of the city and the happiness of its citizens. 

In addition to the task of transitioning their power grids from coal to clean energy, players must use zoning mechanics to determine how much of their city is dedicated residential, commercial, and industrial. If players transition their energy grid too quickly, zones can lose power, causing citizen unhappiness. If players create new opportunities for clean energy and jobs, but do not increase residential zones, citizens will not be able to live there. By integrating system balancing with gameplay, players can learn how to identify multiple causes of pollution and job loss. In doing so, they experiment with solutions that reflect what’s possible in the real world.

In a study conducted with n=400 students across the United States, they found statistically significant learning gains in players’ ability to engage in complex systems thinking as a result of gameplay and instruction.