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Pros: Makes students more aware of their impact on the world.
Cons: Sometimes a little too reductive in its depiction of ecology.
Bottom Line: Offers valuable lessons about human impact on carbon emissions and climate change, but its simplicity can sometimes come off as caricature.
This isn't a game for groups, but is great for individual practice, especially with a little help here and there from adults or peers. Since there's no way to save progress (that we can tell) and it's a bit long, make sure students have ample time to dig into the game in one sitting. This game would pair well with other similar titles like Enercities and SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge!, giving students a full picture of environmental science and sustainable city planning and engineering. It might be useful to have students play two or all three of these games and then compare what each teaches and how they do it. How does each experience take the same subject and frame it differently? What does one game teach that another doesn't? Which is the most fun? The best learning experience? If you were to make a game about climate change and sustainability, what would you borrow from each? What would you do differently?
Students join two characters, Waddy the dolphin and Harty the seal, in the effort to combat carbon emissions and the impact of climate change on a small town. Similar to other sims, the task is to manage resources and build a town. By planting trees and optimizing buildings and roads for power efficiency, students see how valuable reforestation efforts may be and what efforts they can make in their lives to conserve energy. To build a sense of urgency, students experience and must thwart the looming threats of climate change, such as desertification and rising sea levels. These threats push players to plant more trees, or fight off loggers as they try to cut down trees. This latter bit comes across as too acerbic and misinformed, since sustainable lumber is an important resource both in and out of the game, and is just one example of how Ecofriendz' simplistic depicition of this issue conceals some important complexities.
Please note that Ecofriendz contains two different modes -- campaign and free play -- which feature 22 missions and the ability for multiple characters. This would imply that players can save their progress. However, we were not able to figure out if progress could be saved or how it could be saved.
Students get some very practical lessons about what causes and can combat climate change, and how to be more sustainable. There's a focus on power conservation as well as deforestation and reforestation efforts. The lessons are simple -- sometimes to their slight detriment -- but ultimately age appropriate, and the cartoon styling definitely opens the topic up to younger students. Small quizzes, which deal out money (used to purchase upgrades, buildings, and trees) for correct answers, keep students focused on the issues at hand and reward them for conserving resources, such as paper, electricity, and fuel.