Sustainaville - An Ethical Game

App review by
Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Media
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Sustainable-community sim teaches kids to help and conserve.

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Educational Value

Kids can learn about the kinds of resources required for undeveloped regions of the world to become sustainable communities. Working with water sources, housing, crops, health, education, and disaster preparedness, kids will realize just how much work goes into a sustainable community and are likely to begin seeing those same kinds of resources in their day-to-day lives. Kids will also learn how these resources are often interdependent: Crops require water, the people who work the crops require housing, and so on. Also, the in-game money is a limited resource, and kids will learn to conserve it by configuring efficient solutions to each sustainability puzzle. Sustainaville - An Ethical Game takes the real work of building communities and transforms it into a fun, challenging, and thoughtful simulation for kids that lets them give back in the real world.

Ease of Play

Tutorial is very helpful, and once kids get oriented, it's easy to find their way around. Occasionally difficult to properly place items, and the game does crash from time to time, but if kids are logged in, it saves their progress, and they can continue from there.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

Connected to the charity Save the Children and gently encourages players to contribute real dollars. If they contribute, they get in-game bonuses. If players click the Save the Children button within the game, they are given a parental check meant to prevent young kids from accessing this part of the site. The parental check is easy to get past for the intended age range of the game, however, and players are then presented with a screen to type in a credit card number.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sustainaville - An Ethical Game is a simulation game made by the organization Save the Children about creating sustainable communities. The levels increase in difficulty, but it takes a while before they're too difficult for younger kids. Smart and careful play early on will help save kids' resources for the more difficult levels later, so kids will need to be good at conserving what they have. If kids find they're running out of money, they can replay the easier levels to get ahead before moving on to the more difficult levels. Also, while disaster preparedness is a feature of this game, it doesn't include violence or suffering. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared.

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What's it about?

SUSTAINAVILLE - AN ETHICAL GAME asks kids to build communities in four regions: a savannah, an arid climate, a tropical area, and on an island, all initially undeveloped. As kids play, more of the game gets unlocked, including all four regions, different tools and bonuses, and more difficult levels. Kids can get bonuses in the game by doing well, by connecting with friends who play the game, and by making real-life donations to Save the Children. Each level begins with setting up a water source, a house, and a food crop. From there, kids work to meet the requirements of the level, providing the proper amount of water, food, housing, health, education, and disaster preparedness. Each item they place costs in-game money, but each level provides money if successfully completed; the money available carries over from level to level, so doing well on early, easier levels sets kids up for success on the later, more difficult levels. Kids can revisit lower levels as many times as they wish.

Is it any good?

A fun and interesting resource-allocation simulation, this charity-sponsored game teaches and inspires. Each level is a puzzle requiring different priorities and combinations of solutions. Kids can likely solve the early levels without using the bonuses or any of the fancier resources, such as the chicken coop or the evacuation center, so they may not know how to best use those resources when they come across the bigger challenges later. Still, the game teaches kids the basics of what's necessary to create a sustainable community and how several of those resources work together. It also gives kids the opportunity to think hard and creatively about problem-solving and efficiently allocating their resources. The game does occasionally crash, however, which can be frustrating, but it saves your progress if you're logged in.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about in-app purchases and your rules about them. Does it make a difference that the money goes to a charity?

  • Talk about the game villages vs. the real-life communities that are represented. What do you think are the similarities? What might be some differences? Are there any challenges people face that aren't shown in the game?

  • Take curiosity about the game and funnel it into research about real places and people. Which communities does Save the Children try to help?

App details

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