Thu, Oct 11th 2007 4:45pm
As posted today on BoingBoing, the upcoming release of SimCity Societies asks game players to consider how their city-building choices affect (virtual) climate change. Upping the ante on Chevron's online game Energyville, Societies was developed in collaboration with BP, nee British Petroleum. By piggybacking on the success of the SimCity franchise, BP will gain access to a much larger audience than Chevron's strategy of hoping users find its standalone game. While their stated goal of raising awareness of climate change issues and energy alternatives is admirable, BP's in-game branding smacks more of marketing than of educating. The real missed opportunity, however, would be if BP just uses the game to talk at players, even if what they have to say is informative. The SimCity community is one of the oldest and biggest "connected" communities around, and the very nature of the game brings together millions of individuals who enjoy solving problems. Rather than creating a glorified brochure, BP should leverage their participation in the game to foster a conversation between the company and individuals. That could mean allowing players to provide feedback on their experiences with in-game climate change or even (at the player's discretion) sending back entire game-play sequences that could be compiled and dissected by the company. BP, which faces changing realities of the energy industry, would do well to consider that they might learn more by listening to their customers than by telling their customers what the company already thinks. No such intent is obvious from what BP is saying about the game, but maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised.
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