But I have no idea what kids do or play now in computer labs. Probably check their Facebook or Twitter, maybe play some flash games, but I doubt most of it has an ounce of educational value. But maybe a game like Fate of the World has found its way into some programs, I know for a fact that Positech Games has landed deals with some institutions to deliver their Democracy series to students, so it's not unlikely a climate change/general-bad-things-are-happening-everywhere simulator could be being played in high schools right now.
It's been a while since our last Indie Impression, but it's a column I'd really like to continue. Independently developed games are becoming more and more important with every year, Steam update, and console release. Highlighting one or two a month shouldn't be difficult, and I believe important to the industry. Let's take a look at Fate of the World, today.
I actually cheated and played this game during a previous Steam holiday event. It's a fairly entertaining world leadership simulator with decent production values (and music from Richard Jacques). Essentially, you play through missions where the earth is going to hell one way or another, and you're elected leader to try and fix things in X number of years. Several scenarios need to be fixed, and it's a good concept. You build and sustain certain paths through limited resources on various continents, with the goal being to improve performance of the area in question while simultaneously keeping world leaders/countries happy. This is performed through a turn-based card play system that has branching effects.
It's fairly overwhelming to start, with a somewhat unintuitive UI and an almost overwhelming amount of possible information (which may be par for the course in the genre). But after playing a bit, it feels at least manageable enough to have a chance on missions. Players used to having supreme control over their games may have a difficult time in a sim like this, where continued unrest and war/famine are common, both through natural causes and as effects of your feverish attempts to save the planet. However, while the objectives can seem very difficult to meet through various disasters and terrible events, they still remain in the realm of possibility by the end of each scenario.
This type of game would likely work best in an educational environment, especially as it appears to be sourced from and partially funded by various public research organizations. Fate of the World doesn't have the feel of traditional world simulator games, but I guess it does hold enough broad appeal to exist in the larger market. Overall, my ultimate impression is that the game is worth a demo, to test whether it appeals to you enough to dive in and really learn how to use, as well as exploit, the mechanics. It certainly isn't for everyone.
I will agree with Steve that Fate of the World is a pretty overwhelming game. Even though the first level is a tutorial that hand holds your way through fixing a crisis in the South and North Africa regions, I still managed to fail it my first time. It's a turn-based game where (at least for the first stage) each turn lasts five years, so you select some cards to play on a region, end your turn, and see what disastrous effects you brought upon its people. The cards all seem to have positive effects on their face-value, but it's obvious that reducing coal emissions may cause problems with the economy, or power supply, or health care system or who knows what. Playing any one card honestly made me think of what the repercussions would be over a five year span.
But making you think about the repercussions to your actions is the game's main goal, and it succeeds quickly. And while playing as dictator of a super United Nations-like agency with environmental authority over most nations on Earth doesn't exactly make the game very personal, there's still a sense of "don't mess this up for everyone down there." Playing cards is a balancing act that may require some trial and error, an advantage gamers have over their real life counterparts.
Fate of the World would be ideal in an educational, there are a ton of numbers you can look at every turn, if you'd like, but there's also visual feedback in seeing the sea waters rise on the globe or icons symoblizing riots or food shortages. Once again, this game isn't for everyone, but it may well be one of the more important educational games to come out in years.