Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Serious Games Review: Planet Green

Serious Games challenging us to play a better future


Via: Water Cooler Games - Excerpts from Advertising and Ecology: Planet Green Game
April 10, 2007 - by Ian Bogost

Starbucks Coffee and Global Green USA have created Planet Green Game, a game about energy conservation and consumption.


The game is set in a hypothetical town called Evergreen. The player chooses a character and transportation mode (foot, skateboard, bicycle, and three types of automobiles, each with different emissions). A variety of energy-related minigames are scattered throughout the town -- a MPG management driving game at the service station, a click-to-fix energy waste game at home, a quiz at the school and city hall, and energy-efficient shopping memory game at the building supply store. You can also visit Starbucks (!), where you learn about a promotion to encourage caffeine lovers to bring their own mug in during the month of April.


One thing that intrigues me about Planet Green Game is its hybrid status as an educational game and advergame. Social marketing is always marketing, of course, but Global Green USA clearly hopes to capitalize on a cross-promotion with a very well-known retail chain, and likewise Starbucks can't complain about appearing to care about environmental issues (whether they actually do care is irrelevant). The in-edugame product placement fascinates me too. The Starbucks store is one example, but so is the Energy Star logo on the back of the home building minigame memory cards.


Despite its apparently earnest mission, Planet Green Game reveals the environment to be just another marketing hook. This is neither a new nor a surprising scenario given the popularity of social marketing, but Planet Green Game makes the educational hook of game-based social+commercial marketing more evident.