IBM sim game hopes to build better cities

IBM has launched its own version of the game SimCity, in which users get to sink their teeth into the real-life adventure of… urban planning.

Jokes aside, CityOne - which is due to premiere today at the IMPACT 2010 conference in Las Vegas - aims to help students, urban planners and academics find virtual solutions to "real-world business, environmental and logistical problems".

IBM hopes the game, which will be available for free online in the autumn, will make cities and businesses smarter and more environmentally friendly.

A trailer on the game's web site explains all, while links to YouTube videos alert users to real-life environmental and business solutions.

"One mission," an official IBM press release breathlessly recounts, "involves a city where water usage has increased at twice the rate of population growth, supplies are becoming strained (and possibly polluted); the municipality is losing as much as 40 per cent of its water supply through leaky infrastructure; and energy costs are steadily increasing."

IBM's Nancy Pearson managed to stifle her excitement enough to add in an official statement: "Serious games allow professionals to inherently comprehend system interactions, and accurately model the potential business outcomes that can result, in a way that no other medium can do."

The IT industry could do with learning a few of the game’s lessons itself. A recent report from industry analysts Gartner, revealed that IT generated as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines: around two per cent of global CO2 emissions.