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Green thumbs are no longer just for gardeners. Gamers of all ages can work to save the environment, whether virtual or real. With development costs for games coming down, green gaming is on the rise. And players are turning to it for education and activism, as well as entertainment.
Games that teach environmental stewardship have been around at least since 1989’s SimCity, in which pollution and congestion were obstacles to overcome. Recent games have zeroed in on a wide range of environmental issues, from recycling tips to ecological awareness to preventing climate change on a global scale.
Trash Tycoon, a Facebook-based social game released on Sept. 6, has players collecting otherwise landfill-bound materials to be “upcycled,” or repurposed into new products. Created by Guerillapps, the game is based on the business model of TerraCycle, a leader in the collection and reuse of non-recyclable post-consumer waste. Intriguingly, this game’s virtual reality is directly linked to the actual world: players who participate in TerraCycle’s real-life recycling and repurposing programs receive points and prizes when playing the game.
Another game with real world consequences has been created by the team of Simple Energy and San Diego Gas and Electric. Here utility customers employ smart grid technology to track energy use, competing against each other to see who can reduce their consumption the most – by weatherizing doors and windows, switching to fluorescent bulbs, lowering the thermostat, or other means. Top energy conservers win prizes, including restaurant gift certificates and new laptop computers.
Educating the public on the importance of sustainability and environmental responsibility will be key to maintaining a healthy planet for generations to come. Green games show great potential for bringing these messages to a wide – and decidedly plugged-in – audience.
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