The kids of today will inherit the Earth of tomorrow. They will also be left to clean up the mess we leave behind today.
With the right ecological education, we can hope they will hit the ground running. A lot of schools and educational institutions are doing their bit by including the environment as part of the curriculum. Words like “carbon footprint” and “global warming” come to them as easily as the name of any present-day rock star.
Technology has a trick. Environmental education can be taken out of musty textbooks and turned into interactive games. Like any other strategy game, kids can immediately see the environmental problems and design solutions on their own.
The best games can be invaluable teaching tools on most any platform and require half the effort. Many games also fit the U.S. Common Core standards.
Want to sensitize your kids right now? Play these ten games with them. Each will leave them with lessons on the environment and their role in it.
1. NOAA Games
What are they about? The games focus on ocean and air themes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wants to spark environmental awareness and the well-designed games are the most entertaining way to go about it. Its site acts as a portal, as most of the games are hosted on channels like PBS. But each game addresses the key concerns of our planet and also demonstrates solutions that can work in the real world.
What is it about? Learn more about climate change.
Can the technology of today help us combat climate change? I think it can. But it has to start with education first and engagement second.
Clim’Way is an excellent game that tries to do both. You will face the problem of greenhouse gas emissions on three fronts:
- Decrease the use of energy by 40 percent.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent.
- Increase the share of renewable energy by 60 percent.
The baseline is the year 2008. Your goal is to achieve the above three by 2058. Let’s hope you can do it in the game and we can do it in the real world too.
What is it about? Learn a lot about renewable wind energy by building a wind farm.
This online environmental game was launched in 2007. But the game feels more timely now as renewable energy is on an upward climb. For instance, the U.S. leads the world in wind energy production. By 2030, wind energy could meet 30 percent of all electricity demand in the country. Even though it’s not as cool as a solar panel in space.
Windfall prepares you for that future because setting up wind farms requires a lot of skills. Try to design one with this virtual game. You have to keep a lot of factors in mind when you opt for a small, medium, or large windmill.
4. Play Oil God
What is it about? Learn how oil drives our politics and economics.
Some old Flash games can still surprise you. Play Oil God from Persuasive Games turns you into a James Bondian villain, but with the master plan of educating you on how the politics of oil works around the world.
You are the oil tycoon who wields massive power. With nine nations submitting to your diktats, you control the strings of power that drive oil economies in these countries. The game wants to teach you the complex relationship between gas prices, geopolitics, and oil profits.
5. Recycle City
What is it about? Learn what you can do to help protect the environment.
Just consider e-waste. Doesn’t your mind boggle when you read that recycling one million laptops could save the same amount of energy as that used by 3,657 American homes in a year? That’s what the EPA said in a 2013 report. And that’s why recycling has to be a small solution to the bigger problem.
The Recycle City game can sensitize children early to the need for reusing waste. Play the game to see how everyday decisions can reduce waste, energy, and even help you save money at home, at work, and around the neighborhood.
What is it about? Learn how the biology of an ecosystem affects the planet.
Lifeboat to Mars, as the name says, is about the Red Planet. But it is also a clean slate that teaches kids about the origins of an ecosystem and how evolutionary biology can transform a rock into a living globe. In this biology simulation game, kids are tasked with piloting a spaceship with a cargo of microbes and a variety of plants and animals needed to start an ecosystem.
The PBS game has different missions and obstacles that involves a lot of trial and error. Like many games, this too will sharpen your child’s decision-making skills.
7. Smog City 2
What is it about? Control the city pollution and give citizens a healthier urban life.
The smart devices market for air quality monitoring devices is a direct nod to urban pollution. For our children, it will be a fact of life unless we start doing something about it today.
Play it online or download the simulator. You may not be in charge of your city’s environment, but you are at the controls in this virtual world of Smog City 2. Control the levels of pollution in the city by customizing its environment in different ways. The game demonstrates how ten different types of controls across three categories can create a clean city or a toxic dump.
What is it about? Learn how birds migrate and the effect of human pollution on their migratory patterns.
The Mission Migration game lays bare the threat of human activity on the migration of birds. The game also tries to highlight the role of our positive environmental choices on successful bird migration.
In this game, help your flock migrate safely by making the right choices every day around your home, school, and neighborhood. Learn how these mundane decisions affect the fate of these migrating birds in both positive and negative ways. By the time you’re done, you’ll have helped the birds find a nesting place and mates.
What is it about? A role-playing game where you try to recycle 80 percent of the trash collected.
The Zabbaleen are the garbage collectors of Egypt. Wikipedia says the Zabbaleen recycle up to 80 percent of the waste that they collect, whereas most Western garbage collecting companies can only recycle 20 to 25 percent of the waste that they collect. The game is part of a documentary on the community and it will help you peek into their lives and process.
In the game, you take on the role of the Zaballeen. Start with one neighborhood, one factory, and one hungry goat. You have eight months to build your recycling empire and get Cairo’s total recycling as high as you can.
Waste is a sinister problem. The game is as much about the survival tactics of these remarkable people as it is about our own eco-consciousness.
10. Profit Seed
What is it about? Sustainable farming and dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
This game might be more suitable for older kids as they begin to break down the complex issues around seed patents and GMOs. The players become farmers and attempt to plant traditional heirloom seeds while attempting to stop the spread of GMO seeds as they into their plots.
The dangers of GMO seeds? If enough GMO seeds land in the field and germinate, the lawyer from an agribusiness corporation can sue the farmer and take his land. So, control the wind with your mouse and stop rogue seeds from drifting on your land.
Are Games Good for the Environment?
These ten are among the simplest (and free) environmental games on the web. There are many more well-designed games out there which are more complex. These include the well-known SimCityEDU which makes a city come alive. Or the beautiful Walden, A Game that is a first-person simulation of the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau.
Thankfully, these games need just a browser and a bit of your time. The time “wasted” on them could turn into a good investment for the future.
What do your kids say? Do they have a particular favorite game that has captured their free time? Let us know if you liked these games down in the comments!
Image Credit: Yaruta/Depositphotos