The new wave of city builders and management games tackling climate change

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Whichever way you look at it, most videogames are anthropocentric. We view nearly everything through the lens of what we are: humans. This is no surprise, and isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it affects how games explore the planet we live on. We’re always harvesting natural resources to build, expand, and wage war, but a new wave of city builders and management games is steering the focus away from what we want and toward what Earth needs from us.

Previously I have written about how city builders and factory simulators never really do anything to tackle the effects of industry on the world around us – we face the stark reality of this every day as our summers get hotter, our winters colder, and weather all over the world becomes more chaotic. Some city-building games do pay lip service to climate change and pollution, but there’s an assumption that any game which focuses on these topics would create miserable busywork, as if the same couldn’t be said about trudging up and down hills to mine for resources, or laying out elaborate traffic solutions.

Despite this, there are a handful of games and studios that are dedicated to investigating climate change. Leading the charge is the Independent Game Developers Association Climate Special Interest Group [IGDA Climate SIG], a network of developers concerned with making games that both inform and entertain. Among their ranks you’ll find games like Terra Nil, Imagine Earth, and Among Ripples: Shallow Waters. There are two uniform themes between these three games. The first is that they are all concerned with the environment. The second is that they are all fun, despite their commitment to a troublesome, often dismal theme.

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