SimCity, the new edition of Will Wright, Maxis, and Electronic Arts’ foundational simulation series, has overcome some of its growing pains over the past couple of weeks. Players can at least connect to the game’s servers so they can actually play it now, so there’s that. Yet even as players find ways to bend the game to suit their desires—offline, solo play is a specific lure—EA is staunchly unapologetic about its divisive game. It’s offered a free game to compensate frustrated customers, but it’s never said sorry, and it remains wholly committed to SimCity. In fact, EA is now pushing the game not just to players looking to build a fake city, but educators helping shape the real life city builders of tomorrow.
GlassLab, an education-based games initiative backed by EA, Institute of Play, the ESA, and others including some funded by the Gates Foundation, opened SimCity EDU in beta this month alongside the new game. SimCityEDU is a website, community, and resource for teachers that use SimCity in science, technology, economics, civics, engineering, and math classes. The idea is that lesson plans and other resources can be shared between different educators, hopefully encouraging innovative use of the game as a teaching tool.
EA first announced SimCityEDU in January. Over the weekend, the site began updating with test lesson plans. The Monday test, “Prueba L&D,” for example is laid out with sections for the course description, as well as goals for the class. In this example, the goal is to use SimCity for grammar lessons.
On the one hand, SimCity is an excellent teaching tool, at least in its classic modes like SimCity 2000 and SimCity 4. Those games encourage everything from basic problem solving to complex math skills (in things like maintaining a budget). It can even, depending on restrictions set by the teacher, be used to teach ethical forms of government. The city can thrive if a player exerts dictatorial control over its revenue streams, but the unhappiness of the Sim citizens can be used to demonstrate why that’s wrong.
EA hasn’t revealed yet how SimCityEDU will interact with the newly released SimCity. EA Government Affair’s Craig Hagen said in January that EA would let teachers use modified versions of the new game. Anyone unsatisfied with the commercially released version of SimCity might find the game they’re looking for in education-based editions.