Sim City helps Societies

Heard of the One Laptop Per Child initiative? Probably, but just in case here’s a summary. It’s a charitable endeavour to provide computers to children in developing and impoverished nations. The XO Latop is a bespoke and dirt-cheap machine (a donation of just $200 sees one sent out to a child in need on the other side of the world) designed first and foremost for learning, but with the added benefit of being a compelling piece of technology in its own right. Oh, and it plays games.

A while back, Sims developers Maxis revealed they were working on a special version of SimCity to run on the XO. It’s ideal, really – as well as being one of gaming’s bona fide classics, its emphasis on statistics and organisation slots it neatly into the educational category too.

Seems there’s been some progress, as spotted by GamePolitics on the blog of Don Hopkins, one of the programmers on the original SimCity. There’s a ton of information about it on the blog, including its origins, its future (it’ll be open source, which hopefully means some fascinating mods) and how it differs from SimCity. I’ll leave you to read that in your own time, and jump straight to the video of it in action:

Looks pretty sweet, I reckon, and better than poorly-reviewed series newbie SimCity Societies.

Oh, and if you fancy an XO of your own, the recently-opened Give One Get One scheme will have one sent to a child in a developing nation, and one to you for $399. The offer’s only open until November 26th, and to Americans and Canadians only. Which is really annoying, as I’d totally do it – philanthropy and gadgetfuntime for me in one neat package would make me a happy boy. Curse my Britishness.


  1. Heartless_ says:

    This is just a cut’n’paste off my blog post about it, but wanted to share it here as well.

    Having done a fairly exhaustive project involving OLPC, I feel attached to any bit of news I hear about it. I never thought that I would be reporting on gaming-related news for the OLPC! I support the project 100% and want to take a moment to talk about it.

    OLPC is not here to simply deliever cheap laptops. The laptops have a purpose and a guiding principal. Constructionism, a philosophy of education in which children learn by doing and making, really sets the OLPC project apart from other cheap laptop projects. There are plenty of other companies setting out to prove they can make cheaper laptops. OLPC will always have them beat because of their philosophy, instead of just trying to make the cheapest laptop possible.

    Currently, the laptop does cost more than $100 to produce, but the $100 tagline still sticks with the project. It is a goal and I fully believe they can achieve it. However, staying under $300 will still be a great accomplishment. After all, in a world where gamers throw down $500 for the latest video card, I can’t help but stop and admire what OLPC has done and will continue to do.

  2. NotArobot says:

    Alec, if you want, I can buy one for you and ship it over to ya for the cost of shipping. If you want to arrange something, let me know…


  3. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Can’t deny the education aspects of even the plain old original SimCity – I remember having IT lessons dedicated to it back at my primary school in the early 90s! (hmmmmm, Amiga).

  4. Soren Johnson says:

    Wow, very cool… any word if this version of SimCity will be made available for XP? I always thought the original version hit the bullseye in terms of complexity level, and seeing those screen shots leaves me jonesing to try it again.

  5. Leelad says:

    That laptop program annoys me. Surely they are in more need of fresh water, Medical supplies and a stable education over a cheap laptop?

    Unless it can play peggle? Then and only then is it more important than all the above…you could probably even add oxygen and sex to the list too.

    Thinking about it once they are plugged in to the internet and have a gmail account all the “meds” they need are there cheap as chips.

  6. Alec Meer says:

    NotArobot – that’s an awesome offer of you, but bitter past experience of importing electronics from the US has me worried I’d have to cough up a fortune in shipping and import duties (UK customs charged me an $80 duty for a DS a while back, f’rinstance, and even threatened me with court action when I missed the single phone call they made to advise me they’d confiscated it until I coughed up), and I’m too poor to risk that at the moment. Many thanks, though.

    Leelad – as Heartless_ above points out, it’s about providing a means of education to kids lacking schools and teachers, not about being a cheap computer to check your email on and play Peggle. Have a good read of the OLPC site before you succumb to what I’d say is unjustified annoyance.

  7. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Now all they need is M.U.L.E, X-COM, and the first couple Monkey Island games Then the kids will learn how to build a city, make some money, defend their city from aliens, and have a sense of humor throughout it all. Until their best friend is cut down from plasma fire by a sectoid while he tries to make enough money for a new highway.

  8. eliterrell says:

    I must say, it’s gratifying to see that the creator of Sim City plays with it pretty much the way I did. That is, in the best case “ooh, what happens if I click this and speed things up” and in the worst case “how fast can I destroy this city.”

  9. Rock, Paper, Shotgun: Best In The World At Kate Bush » Blog Archive » The Soul of The Sims says:

    […] game designer. Don Hopkins, whose fascinating if slightly bewildering site we’ve linked to before,back when he was drawing back the curtain on the free version of SimCity for the One Laptop Per […]