Feature

Green gaming: eco-learning games online

G Magazine

What are some of the best online eco-educational games out there?

Child with laptop on grass

Credit: iStockphoto

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Kapow. Zap. Biff. Bam!

We'd once be loath to hear these sounds - the hallmarks of mindless computer game entertainment - emerging from our kids' bedrooms and studies. But parents of today fear not!

There's a new breed of video games in town that are fun to play and provide an environmental educational to boot.

They're available free online, are non-violent, and definitely all the rage in this writer's household!

In fact, I had a problem with writing these reviews: that my computer chair had no auto-eject button to hurl the kids out of the pilot's seat!

In the end, I had to resort to threats of "If you don't get off my computer then no more eco-ed computer games. Ever."

It worked.

Here are the best games of the bunch:

  • Eco Quest, published by Greenpeace

    Kids become mini eco-warriors in Eco Quest, a game offering three rescue missions: save the Irrawaddy dolphins in Asia, elephants in Africa or reindeer in Scandinavia. This one's best for younger kids.

    Lesson learnt: The plight of endangered species around the world.

    Best feature: It's sheer fun! Even a grumpy old journalist such as myself enjoyed tracking down the dolphin hunters.

    Level of ease: Eco Quest gets lots of points from all players in my household, because it has three levels: easy, medium and hard.

    Enjoyment factor: I clearly enjoyed saving the dolphins the most, and the elephants were great too. But to be absolutely honest, the reindeer were a bit dull.

  • 2024 Dreaming, published by ABC

    This game has a more brainy approach to learning about the world's eco-problems, exploring life 15 years in the future. As a player, you can choose to look at the future of Australia's work, food, transport or housing.

    With quizzes and design activities, it's for kids in the older teen range.

    Lesson learnt: The takeaway lesson is that the future is the now: it's the choices we make today which will determine the world in 15 years.

    Best feature:: This one's a winner because it's Australian and allows kids to learn heaps about our country.

    Level of ease: This one is dead easy. You point and click, then shoot off into your choice of future.

    Enjoyment factor: While the game is enjoyable, it comes close to falling into the worthy-but-dull category. It's more useful for school projects than for a zap-pow session after a hard day.

  • PlanetSlayer, published by ABC

    On the PlanetSlayer site you can watch short episodes of the Adventures of Greena, a young woman with lots of attitude and the power to save or slay the planet, and then put your own planet-saving skills to the test.

    While the game is good for the kids, other features on the site, like the greenhouse calculator and FAQs, are geared more towards teenagers and young adults.

    Lesson learnt: Again, it's about choices. You can save the planet, or slay it.

    Best feature: This mature-aged reviewer liked the game's quirkiness and its girl-power, can-do attitude.

    Level of ease: It's hard, but not throw-down-the-mouse hard.

    Enjoyment factor: Perhaps the best thing about the game is its instructions, which have funny explanations of why or why not to stop objects from reaching our Earth (Why stop nuclear waste? "Too many half lives add up to no life at all..." Or why let it ravage the planet? Well, "Who can deny the beauty of a gently glowing landscape?")

  • Energy Hog, published by The Alliance to Save Energy

    This game is all about finding ways to save energy, and having a blast while doing it.

    You scour a house floor plan to find and stop the hidden "Energy Hogs", nasty oinkers sucking up energy, such as old refrigerators and long hot showers. When you find the hogs, you play against them in a series of games to earn the title of Official Hog Buster.

    Lesson learnt: Everyone can do something about the world's energy problems, and this game shows you how. It's chock-full of practical tips and information to help kids be Hog Busters in the real world.

    Best feature: Kid's will learn how to play it very quickly, and have a blast. In not time they'll be loading the virtual caulk-gun, clicking on windows and successfully keeping the energy hogs out.

    Level of ease: It's an easy-peasy game that's simple to learn.

    Enjoyment factor: As fun for the young as it is for the young at heart.