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Global warming in a virtual world

Electronic Arts details how it's using its Sims City virtual world to make players aware of the real world's environmental problems.

Whether or not you're one of the few global warming skeptics left, there's no denying that the northeast has been experiencing an unseasonably--up to 85 degrees--warm October.

Now, even when you're playing escapist video games, you'll have to deal with the guilt that your habits have made it too warm to wear autumn tweed.

SimCity Societies (review from CNET Networks' GameSpot), the next generation of the SimCity computer game series that releases November 15, is going to simulate the environmental impact of different types of building and energy choices.

SimCity Societies pollution
SimCity Societies shows corresponding virtual pollution as a result of virtual energy choices. Electronic Arts/GameSpot

Players who choose inexpensive and "readily-available" buildings or cheap energy that produces more carbon dioxide, will see environmental results in the form of virtual droughts, heat waves and other natural disasters.

Electronic Arts partnered with energy company BP to provide the data analysis. Players are also given BP product choices in-world, as well as offered more real-life information on energy, electricity production, carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions.

"With SimCity Societies, we have the opportunity not only to demonstrate some of the causes and effects of global warming, but also to educate players how seemingly small choices can have a big global impact," Steve Seabolt, vice president of global brand development at Electronic Arts.

Electronic Arts is not the first high-profile company to tackle global warming. The public radio producer American Public Media released Consumer Consequencesin early September.

It all sounds very interesting and educational. But isn't the virtual world supposed to be an idealized place where you can go to create the world you actually want, rather than the one you're stuck with?