By Lars Olsen
Create and design your own eco-friendly city in Plan It Green (PiG): The Big Switch!
Presented in 2013 by National Geographic, General Electric, and the Center for Science, PiG is a flash-based city-building game that puts you in control of your town’s future. Players must make difficult decisions in order to balance resources and create an energy-efficient metropolis.
PiG is the environmentalist’s version of SimCity, a simulated city-design game. The player uses resources to design buildings and infrastructure in an effort to create a sustainable and green urban environment. Playing as the mayor of your fictional city, you must balance your income and expenditures of hearts, gold, goods, energy, and population while maintaining the environment. As you develop your city and complete missions, you will gain experience and unlock more efficient and eco-friendly structures. The game also features an arcade game that helps you generate resources, and an array of short videos by G.E. (~3 minutes) about positive environmental innovations.
The educational potential of PiG is enormous because it highlights modern green innovations and demonstrates the potential impacts in a meaningful way to children. PiG also captures the complexities of energy management and gives players the opportunity to navigate these challenges for themselves. You get to decide how to spend your money and where to place buildings. Educational games often use the SimCity format because it provides opportunities for higher-level learning through critical thinking and problem solving. PiG elaborates on this model with multiplayer support to promote collaboration amongst players and potentially students in a classroom setting.
There are some fantastic features in PiG, but the game has a fatal flaw: the pace of the gameplay is excruciatingly slow because you are often waiting for your resources to recharge. This leaves the player with very little to do for extended periods of time, which is quite boring, and detracts from the educational potential. At least you have plenty of time to watch their videos!
This game is quite scientifically rigorous, and includes a lot of information on modern energy infrastructure. Each building option includes information about the costs, requirements, and results which allows players to make informed decisions for their city. In addition to the informative gameplay, their videos provide supplemental stories on innovations like solar roadways. All of this information is at a middle school comprehension level, so I wouldn’t recommend PiG for a younger audience.
Plan it Green is similar to several other SimCity-style games, but it stands out by incorporating modern renewable energy infrastructure and providing a sleek user interface. The well-made videos quickly deliver some fantastic stories. After a long session, you may become frustrated by the pace of the game, but you will certainly be proud of your city once you start making the big switch to renewable energy.
Gameplay/Fun: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Educational: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Scientific Rigor: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Accessibility: Ages 10-14
Platform: Web browser (flash)