Perhaps everything can go through the gamification process: I recently ran into two games that tackle issues involving infrastructure.
The game – known as Kehrmaschinen-Simulator 2011 in its homeland of Germany – puts the player behind the wheel of a street cleaning truck and promptly serves some of the dirtiest gutters and asphalt surfaces a city could provide.
Sadly, racing your sweeper at high speeds is not an option. What you can do is drive slowly, move the sweeping apparatus in a wide variety of ways, and – like a good street sweeper must – keep the streets clean. You can also get intimately familiar with the more mundane aspects of the street sweeping profession, from filling up the water tanks to turning on the truck’s various lights to checking your email…
Overall, the game provides what it promises: the player gets to clean city streets. How appealing that is depends on your personality.
“They say war games teach kids how to use guns and kill people and be violent; I don’t really believe in that,” one reviewer notes. “But if you do, maybe you should feed your kid some street sweeping games so he can get ready for his future job.”
The 15 minute video will give you a better idea of what the game is about.
2. We recently played the board game Power Grid for the first time. The idea of the game is that you have to build power plants, power them with resources you have to purchase, and then expand to new cities (which costs you) and also buy more powerful power plants (which also costs you more) to power more cities at a time. For an involved board game, the Amazon reviews are positive (4.5 stars out of 73), the review from Dice Tower is positive, and Board Game Geek offers a lot more information.
My takeaway comes with a caveat: anything can be made fun if done well. However, I do like thinking about infrastructure and city-building anyway so I may have more interest in such games.
Why not also pitch these games as learning opportunities? Give people the idea that playing a game might also be educational and these things might fly off the shelves. Power Grid requires a good amount of math to balance out how much new plants, resources, and city connections will cost versus how much a player will take in each turn based on their number of powered cities. While it is difficult to model complex events exactly in a game, these sorts of games could give kids and adults a better awareness of what it takes to clean streets or provide power. These are not unimportant tasks; I don’t think most citizens want dirty streets and dark houses.