Eco-City Builder: Leveling Up Environmental Awareness Through Gaming

Eco-City Builder: Leveling Up Environmental Awareness Through Gaming

Computer Science
Software Development
Video Games
December 29, 2023
Mathias Bauer
Video preview
In the ever-evolving landscape of environmental education, a unique player has entered the arena – serious gaming. Researchers are exploring uncharted territories, leveraging the immersive appeal of games to foster environmental knowledge and consciousness. A recent study, featuring the game Eco-City Builder, delves into the dynamic relationship between gaming and sustainability. Join me as I unravel the findings and explore the potential of gaming to reshape our environmental narrative.

The Serious Game: Building a Greener Tomorrow

Enter "Eco-City Builder," a serious game that transforms city-building into a green journey. With the familiar mechanics of city simulations, players embark on a quest to create a thriving metropolis while navigating the delicate balance between economic prosperity and environmental stewardship. The game introduces a unique currency – "eco-points" – guiding players to make decisions that impact both their virtual city and their understanding of sustainability.
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Knowledge Boost: Unleashing the Power of Play

The game's standout achievement lies in its ability to impart environmental knowledge. In a surprising twist, players not only met but exceeded competency standards, showcasing the untapped potential of serious games in the educational realm. "Eco-City Builder" emerges as a promising tool for educators seeking innovative ways to engage students in the complexities of environmental science.
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A Consciousness Conundrum

While the game triumphed in elevating knowledge levels, an intriguing conundrum surfaced concerning environmental consciousness. Contrary to expectations, participants exhibited a slight decrease in consciousness post-game. This paradox beckons a deeper exploration into the intricate factors shaping attitudes and behaviors within the gaming realm.

Navigating Economic Realities

Qualitative insights from participants shed light on the real-world challenges that echo within the virtual landscapes of the game. Economic constraints emerged as a significant barrier, with players expressing the difficulty of aligning their choices with environmental ideals due to financial limitations. This opens a vital dialogue about the intersection of economic realities and sustainability within serious gaming. A player stated:
The economy does not take the ecology into account.

Beyond the Game: The Tapestry of Self-Perception

Participants' self-assessment of environmental consciousness added another layer to the narrative. While the measured consciousness levels showed a slight dip, individuals perceived an increase in their awareness. This dissonance prompts contemplation on the influence of serious games on shaping personal beliefs and self-perception. One player said:
When it comes to animal products, I wouldn’t spend twice as much for ecologically right meat.
Players experienced distress as they grappled with the inevitable occurrence of three environmental crises, surpassing ecological limitations in the process.
Decreasing water level and drought.
Decreasing water level and drought.
Contaminated water and fish mortality.
Contaminated water and fish mortality.
Climate change, especially flooding.
Climate change, especially flooding.
The study's revelations pave the way for future enhancements and investigations:

Complexity and Accessibility

Considerations around game complexity and accessibility come to the forefront. Simplifying instructions and making game mechanics more intuitive could democratize access to the educational benefits of serious games.

Replayability and Reinforcement

Recognizing the importance of repetition in learning, future iterations of serious games should focus on enhancing replayability. Returning players could deepen their understanding of environmental concepts, while those facing challenges navigating the game could benefit from repeated exposure.

Intervention Features

Incorporating intervention features, such as persuasive elements, could elevate the game's impact on attitudes and behaviors. Aligning game features with established behavior change frameworks may amplify the transformative potential of serious gaming.

Economic Realities

Acknowledging economic constraints, serious game developers should explore ways to integrate solutions within the gaming experience. Can in-game economies mirror real-world challenges and opportunities, fostering a deeper understanding of the economic dimensions of sustainability?

Inclusion of Control Groups

Strengthening research designs, future studies should include control groups. A comparative analysis would provide a more robust understanding of the game's impact by isolating the effects of the intervention from external factors.

Theoretical Frameworks

Drawing on established psychological dimensions and theoretical frameworks could enrich the analysis of serious games' impact on environmental awareness. This broader perspective might reveal nuanced connections and guide future research endeavors.


As the digital realm intertwines with environmental education, the "Eco-City Builder" study offers a captivating chapter in the evolving saga of serious gaming. Beyond the tangible outcomes, the study sparks reflections on the intricate dance between gaming and green consciousness. While the game excelled in imparting knowledge, the decrease in consciousness beckons serious game developers to embrace a holistic approach. By addressing economic realities, enhancing accessibility, and incorporating intervention features, serious games could evolve into powerful tools for shaping a more sustainable future. The journey continues, and as we press "start" on the next level of serious gaming, the quest for a harmonious balance between gaming and green consciousness marches on. Grab your controllers; the game for a greener tomorrow has just begun!
The Road Ahead: Crafting the Next Level of Serious Games

Bonus: Adapting Mechanics to Gamer Types: A Deeper Dive into Eco-City Builder

This game has become a beacon for those seeking to combine immersive gameplay with sustainability lessons. In my quest to enhance this experience, I embarked on a journey to adapt mechanics to cater to different gamer types, adding a layer of personalisation that transforms gameplay into a tailored environmental learning experience.

Exploring the Possibilities

The foundation of our exploration lay in the recognition of the diverse player profiles that engage with serious games like "Eco-City Builder." Inspired by the need to accommodate varied gaming preferences, I extended its capabilities. The goal was to seamlessly integrate adaptive mechanics that respond to individual player archetypes, creating a more personalized and engaging experience.

BrainHex Questionnaire: A Gateway to Personalization

To identify gamer types, the BrainHex questionnaire was employed, a catalyst for characterizing player preferences. The results became the key to unlocking a new dimension of gameplay. Each gamer type was associated with specific in-game systems, ensuring that the experience resonated with the individual player's style. The gamer type is identified by filling out a small questionnaire before playing the game - without telling the player what the questionnaire is actually all about.
In cases where players exhibited a balance between gamer types, randomization techniques were applied to select the profile, ensuring a fair and unbiased allocation of personalized mechanics.

Persuasive Strategies: Tailoring Gameplay for Each Archetype

The crux of my adaptation lays in the implementation of persuasive strategies as distinct gameplay mechanics for each gamer archetype. Let's delve into the specifics:

Cooperation Strategy

The cooperation strategy found its home with achievers and socializers. Rooted in communal discovery, players collaborate with non-playable characters specializing in sustainability and financial growth. Questlines are tailored to reward players based on pro-ecological or anti-ecological behavior.
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Self-Monitoring and Suggestion Strategies

Masterminds and survivors benefited from self-monitoring and suggestion strategies. These provided players with additional information, fostering judicious decision-making when selecting buildings. The interface displayed ecological impacts, guiding players to make informed choices.
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Customization Strategy

Seeker-gamers found resonance in the customization strategy. Playing the role of a mayor, players establish laws reflecting distinct environmental positions. Rewards or penalties are tied to the eco-friendliness of chosen laws, creating a dynamic legislative environment.
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Competition and Comparison Strategies

Conqueror-gamers thrived in the competitive atmosphere of leaderboards. Artificial counterparts provided a benchmark for competition, aligning with the conqueror archetype's preference for competition and comparison.
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Simulation Strategy

Daredevil gamers embraced the simulation strategy, manifesting as a responsive smock indicating ecological health. As urban ecologies deteriorate, the smock transforms, providing a visual incentive for eco-conscious conduct.
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Ensuring Alignment and Avoiding Pitfalls

My commitment to enhancing "Eco-City Builder" included a thorough examination of existing mechanics. I ensured that default strategies in the non-adaptive version did not inadvertently clash with specific gamer archetypes, mitigating the risk of negative player experiences.

Wrapping Up

The adaptation of mechanics to gamer types within "Eco-City Builder" represents a stride towards personalisation in serious gaming. As players immerse themselves in a tailored experience, the synergy between environmental education and gameplay reaches new heights. The journey continues, with each player contributing to the evolving narrative of serious gaming's role in shaping a sustainable future. Strap in, gamers – the quest for a greener tomorrow has just become a personalised adventure!

Read the scientific papers published on the LIMITS and CHI conferences!