So IBM has launched their "CityOne" online game, designed to teach regular folks "how to better cope with complex modern problems by showing them the forest of solutions that have to be brought to bear, ranging from technological wizardry like smart grids, to better IT, to smart environmental policy." I wrote about CityOne briefly in May, expressing concern that the experience would not be engaging enough.
I'm sad, but not surprised, to report that the game is mad boring.
The game trailer has graphics and an action-y feel that are pretty deceptive, compared to the real game experience. The idea of combining ecological awareness with city planning is a pretty killer concept that I think could have worked with the right developer.
But in execution, the game mechanics are restricted to selecting different policy options in response to different problems and crises. In the game, you scroll from side to side in a God-eye view of the city, looking for problems to address, indicated by different icons for Water, Energy, Banking and Retail. You click on the icons, which brings up 3 options, each of which has different costs and consequences. You pick one. And then move on. Rinse, repeat. That's the entire game.
Oh yeah, as you roll the mouse over the black and white city, you leave a trail of smoke that strangely turns the area you hover over temporarily in color. Which seems to imply to me that pollution is good, because it adds color to your life. Maybe it's just me.
By the 10th round, I was praying for some sort of giant robot to attack the city or a tsunami. Anything to relieve the boredom of GPS-enabled repair crews and "improving client centricity." Oh wait, I can read a white paper on that!
Seriously, game developers have been creating engaging simulated cities for more than 20 years. Why didn't IBM hire any of them to design a fun, educational game and city planning?