When you think of video games, you probably don’t think of sustainability. You likely think about retro Nintendo classics like Mario and Zelda, or maybe you’re the type who likes to play MMOs such as World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online. But maybe what you didn’t realize is that many survival-based simulation games have sustainability-focused gameplay, whether it’s finding a sustainable source of food for yourself or a green source of energy for your settlements.
Some games are flat-out centered around this sustainability gameplay. For example, there’s Eco. Eco is an ambitious settlement building, survival game that currently in Early Access on Steam. Fun Fact: This game is actually partly funded by the United States Department of Education. The developers, Strange Loop Games, currently have a buying option for the entire classroom, making it easy to incorporate the game into the curriculum.
With Eco, protecting the ecosystem is the name of the game. You must build a civilization using the resources around them, much like other survival games, but the catch here is that the ecosystem can be damaged or even destroyed by your actions. Chopping down too many trees can destroy the habitats for creatures, polluting rivers or the ocean with garbage affect agriculture, and a disruption in one area of the ecosystem can be felt in other areas around the globe.
Not only that, but you can run your own government and propose laws that restrict or allow certain activities that would harm the environment. Much like in the real world, the goal of the game should be to protect the environment as much as possible without disrupting your civilization’s advancement. Oh yeah, and by the way, there’s a meteor coming to destroy the planet and it’s up to your civilization to save it… or perish in the process.
Not all games are centered directly over the idea of sustainability or are as heavily focused on the ecosystem as Eco is, but most survival games have an underlying theme of creating a self-sufficient settlement without exhausting your natural resources. In a less in-your-face way, these survival games introduce the balancing act of advancement and conservation. No trees means few animals to hunt, fewer plants or herbs to collect, but also more room for farms and houses. On the other hand, no farms or houses, you and your settlement may not survive the first winter. And believe me, winter is coming.
- Build your settlement and learn to survive!
- Classroom-friendly! (Seriously, the developers have a deal with the Department of Education)
- The challenge of the game: don’t damage your ecosystem beyond repair!
- Run your own government to help (or harm…) the ecosystem
- Btw don’t forget the meteor heading for you
#2 Aven Colony
One such game that I’ve recently been into is Aven Colony. Aven Colony is a sci-fi settlement building game where the goal is to build a thriving, self-sustained human settlement on a faraway alien planet. Each campaign level gives you an additional goal, but you always start off with a little more than nothing: a small food and water storage unit, a solar panel or two, some nanites (this game’s building resource), and a few colonists.
What makes this game pretty damn unique (besides the fact that you’re in SPACE, the final frontier) is that they only have “green” energy options to choose from: wind, solar, or geothermal. You can also introduce policies to manage your colony. You can ration food and water to your colonists or monitor their energy use, but at a cost to their freedom and moral. Keep in mind that every few years the colony holds an election and it’s essential that you don’t get kicked from your position, so keeping the colonists happy is just as important as managing the food and water supply.
However, a major catch in this game is that everything you build needs to be built from nanites, so you need to build mines to gather the substances to produce these little building blocks. Mines (as well as literally every other building in the game) create pollution, which is measured by the air quality. You have to build air filters to combat the air pollution or your colonists will start complaining. Do nothing about it and you’ll end up with a protest on your hands! As you would expect, no one wants to breathe dirty air.
- Settlement game with a sci-fi twist!
- You get a different goal with each level, but hella low resources to work with along the way
- Use dem nanites to build your settlement
- Tackle the pollution that comes from creating a settlement otherwise you’ll have a protest on your hands
Some survival games are so unique that you don’t even notice the sustainability undertones beneath the overall charm of the game. For example, we have a direct homage to the current state of the world’s oceans: Raft. Raft is another game that is in Early Access on Steam.
In Raft, you are a young lad with a hook made of plastic and a raft made of driftwood (I see what you did there, Redbeet). Your goal is to cast out your hook and reel in the goods! Resources are sometimes hard to come by, but they will float by as you sail (or paddle) through the big open sea. But be careful! A shark circles your raft and will quickly take a bite of you if you fall into the ocean.
You’ll have to balance your time between fishing for food, gathering resources, and building up your raft. You’ll want to keep an eye on the shark as she will periodically attack your raft, which can break your raft (and anything on it) if you cannot deter her away fast enough.
Cast out your hook, build-up your raft, and conquer your environment while keeping a close eye on your food and water needs… and the shark.
- You’re in the middle of the ocean with a plastic hook and only a raft to get by
- Pick up resources with your hook as they float by in the ocean so you can expand your raft (and survive)!
- Expanding your raft means using the excess garbage in the ocean, so sustainability FTW!
- Look out for your arch-nemesis: the shark (queue Jaws theme song)
So, there you have it, folks! That was just a few examples of the major sustainability themes in video games. Did we miss any of your favorite games with green-themes? Let us know in the comments section!
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By Lindsey Murri, video game enthusiast and writer
Originally posted at www.alda.life