Thanks to Al Gore and Kermit the Frog, green is a becoming a more frequent incentive factor in casual games– which, I may add, are green in their own element because they are distributed electronically! With the barrage of games that are being promoted as being green, it is interesting to note that not all eco-friendly games are the same, and that over the past few years, they’ve generally gotten better (if I may say so) in that the messages are more seamlessly embedded into the game.
Yes, I did play these games.
Plan It Green, published by National Geographic, was one of the best green games out there because the green message wasn’t forced into your face. The game is basically the same as Build-A-Lot and all of those Sim City-esque building games where you build a house and collect rent. The one thing that made it different was that the “upgrades” you make are environmentally friendly, and unconsciously, you get to know that thermal paint and recycling bins can cost you to install, but in the end, generate more value.
Of course, there is some element of exaggeration in the hypothetical that greener houses automatically get higher rent, but you can still play the game without feeling like you’re being spoon-fed, like the awful Planet Green Game that Starbucks released a few years ago. It’s also very different from games that only serve the purpose of education, like Clean Up Your World, in which you drag and drop litter into appropriate bins (maybe that game would be fun in a competitive game form). It is also very different from Eco Match, which is basically another tile-matching game, only the storyline is about you traveling the world to save different regions that have different elements of environmental damage. I found this last game the most annoying because 1) I didn’t want to read the explanation about environmental what-nots that were put in at the beginning of each stage and 2) what does lining up same-pattern tiles have anything to do with the environment? Objection! Relevance!
The point is, games shouldn’t be made for the sole purpose of education but be built into a gaming framework that can be educating. A quest in World of Warcraft that identifies a group of goblins who are deforesting as bad guys makes a strong impression about deforestation. The objective of the game doesn’t even have to be one that provides the best environmental solution. For instance, in Sim City, you can see that industrial facilities create “unhappiness” but you can’t do completely without industrial facilities, just think of ways to complement that was green facilities. Perhaps these subtle messages in games can create more awareness than we think.