The days when it was effective to tell a kid to go read a book to learn something have been over for like a decade now. Be nostalgic if you want, but it's not a bad thing: interactivity is where learning is at now, and games can be a valuable teaching tool. Or at least, that's the argument I'd be using to get the newest SimCity into my classroom.
SimCity 2013 isn't due out until March, but Electronic Arts has already partnered with the Institute of Play to create SimCityEDU, "an online community and resource hub for educators to create and share SimCity-based learning tools."
The general idea is that teachers and game designers will be able to team up to integrate games like SimCity into new and existing curricula. For example, you could use it to teach kids about recycling. Or financial management. Or why green energy is hard to implement. Instead of just trying to communicate facts, giving kids the opportunity to try different things out for themselves in a simulation environment is a much more effective way of teaching, because it's inherently hands-on and customized for every student.
SimCityEDU will be focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), with some civics and economics thrown in for good measure, and the EDU platform itself will allow ideas and lesson plans and city scenarios to be shared between teachers and developers. If enough actual learnin' can be packed into this thing, we see it as a major potential win for education. From the press release:
In the classroom, SimCity will be more than a game - it will be a way for the next generation of leaders to hone their skills through urban planning, environmental management and socio-economic development.
At least, that's what you want to tell all the parents. Just tell the kids, "we're going to be playing SimCity all day," and don't even mention that education is involved.
For the rest of us, SimCity 2013 will be available on March 18th for $60.