Sim City/ Sim City EDU

Emerging Technologies and Edtech May 26, 2014

Country of Origin: US
Languages: English, French Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Russian Hungarian, Polish, Swedish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean.  (Edu version English only)
Developer: Maxis/GlassLab
Publisher: EA
Year Published: 2013
Platforms: OSX, Windows (large download)
Genre: Strategy Simulation
Barriers to Entry: Requires high performance PC/Mac, large download, requires a great deal of reading, requires constant internet connection
Age range:  Middle School, High School
Subjects:  Civics, Social Studies, Urban Planning, Economics

SimCity (2013) is the latest iteration of the ‘ultimate city simulator’ originally created by Will Wright’s Maxis in 1989. The game places the player in the role of mayor of a dynamic city, and gives the player the task of maintaining and growing that city. SimCity is challenging due to the complexity of inter-relations between the elements of the city as the player builds it up. However, the emergent simulation is carefully balanced so that even limited user input can still lead to ultimate success.

SimCity is clearly a valuable tool for learning urban planning and basic economics, and getting acquainted with the mechanics of running a city. But its truly unique power is in the palatable presentation of complexity and emergence. As game designer Jenova Chen said, “SimCity taught me that life is complex and difficult… but not impossible to understand.”

SimCity, like all of Will Wright’s simulations, is a game with no end and no specific goal. The player’s goals are self-defined and rarely articulated. Instead, the game is an infinite exercise in systems management. In the newest version of SimCity, players are always connected online, and can share resources and goals with other players in their community.

In SimCityEDU, GlassLab has created a special adaptation of SimCity (2013) specifically for educational use, which will be released to the public in late 2013. SimCityEDU adds specific goals to the game, which serve to create targets for students, and to time-limit the experience for classroom use. The goals and specially-built city scenarios in SimCityEDU focus student effort and reflection on specific issues of human, environmental and economic impact, in alignment with a portion of the Next Generation Science Standards for education in the US.

SimCityEDU also contains a data-driven analytic system designed to give students and educators feedback on the students’ performance in the game, particularly in areas of problem solving and systems thinking.