Emerging Technologies and Edtech June 19, 2014

Country of Origin: Korea
Languages: Korean, English, French, Chinese, Spanish
Developer: Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA)
Publisher: KOCCA/United Nations Evnironment Program
Year Published: 2010
Platforms: Windows, OSX
Genre: Resource Management, Puzzle
Subject: Science, Environmentalism, Social Studies

Ecofriendz challenges players to build an environmentally balanced town by forcing them to balance the need for income (which comes from carbon producing homes), with the need to keep pollution at a minimum (by building trees). Later levels introduce loggers to chop down the trees, larger homes that produce more income and pollution and a whole suite of distractions. Quiz questions about personal habits offer a chance to earn much-needed bonus income.

The game is slickly made and its mechanics and interface are easy to understand. There’s a gradual difficulty curve that keeps things from getting too intense too quickly. Also, while the pollution model in the game in simplistic, it’s also instructive, giving the player’s decisions real weight and consequence. However, much of the learning can feel prescriptive and may require class discussion and instructor mediation to fully contextualize. For example, a later level has the player converting cattle farms into vegetable farms. A noble goal, but also loaded with presumption.

Still, the game is captivating and easy to pick up. As a part of a larger lesson about environmentalism and personal habits, Ecofriendz is a great conversation starter and introduction to how our actions affect our community.