Windfall is a creation of Persuasive Games, a company that’s embarked upon the interesting project of making computer games that are at once entertaining and educational. I like to play games as much as the next person, but I’m also interested in games that go beyond the violent goals of killing as many enemies as possible. That’s why I sought out Windfall.
You can give it a try right here. (I originally embedded the game in this article, but that caused an advertisement to play for anyone visiting Irregular Times. Annoying.)
Windfall is supposed to educate us about the issues involved in developing wind farms as a source of electricity. We know that it takes money to install wind turbines, and that not every location has the same amount of wind. We also know that, while wind turbines are extremely quiet and clean, there are some people who don’t like the idea of having to look at them near where they live.
But, of course, there’s a lot more to the wind farm business than that, which is why the Windfall game is such a good idea… except that Windfall doesn’t really educate its players about anything more than these basic concepts I’ve already identified.
The game is exceptionally simple. You build wind turbines, trying to locate them where there’s a lot of wind. You wait around until your investment in your first turbine starts paying off, to fund more wind turbines. You connect the wind turbines to a power grid.
That’s it. There’s no community change in response to the placement of wind turbines. People don’t move in, or go away. There’s only a “political cost”, expressed in terms of dollars, as if popular opposition to a project can be bought off.
What’s the educational benefit of Windfall? The game doesn’t do anything that SimCity didn’t do ten years ago. In fact, it does less. There’s no zoning, no street traffic, no population, no dynamic calculations of power shortages.
Most importantly, there’s no measure of air quality in the game. I’d like to see the air quality improve as the community transitions from coal power to wind power, but there’s no such environmental factor in Windfall. That’s weird, because environmental benefits are a core factor in the social calculation of where and when to create wind farms.
As a game, Windfall isn’t much fun, either. The challenge is clear from the beginning, and simple to deal with in terms of execution. There isn’t much choice in terms of strategy, only a few tools to work with, and a bland, mostly unchanging display. Practically, the game caused my browser to freeze up.
Whether I want to be informed, or just to have fun, Windfall doesn’t satisfy. The game certainly doesn’t help to get any wind turbines constructed, so what’s the point? As a political game, Windfall can’t even summon a gentle breeze.