SimCity players have struggled to keep their virtual towns alive against fires, tornadoes, and even UFOs, but can they handle strained water supplies and rising energy costs in CityOne? IBM's so-called "serious game" challenges urban planners to navigate the labyrinthine issues facing today's growing cities -- and perhaps to test better real-world policies.
The company unveiled its "serious game" this week at the IMPACT 2010 conference in Las Vegas, as a training tool for city leaders and planners. The free game would require players to guide their city through sector-specific missions focused on energy, water, banking, and retail.
One mission involves the water usage increasing at twice the population growth. The city is also losing as much as 40 percent of its water supply through leaky infrastructure, and energy costs are rising. Players would need to put a water management system in place that draws on "accurate real-time data" to make their decisions.
Simulations are already used as tools for real-world planning among financial analysts and the U.S. military. But games such as CityOne could represent a stepping stone to the far more ambitious projects such as Europe's proposed Living Earth Simulator, which would incorporate reams of real-time data about the world.
Either way, we're just waiting for the Hollywood story where the young genius with knack for urban planning suddenly realizes that he's been "playing" not just a game, but real life all along.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.