There are probably many attempts at coupling parts of computer games to the real world. Serious games also allow people to change their minds about new policies, lines of thinking, etc... so they can become very concrete, even though indirectly.
The idea is to develop a computer game that
simulates the construction of a city. Nothing new so far. Let's call our city 'Viridianopolis'.
The multi-player game continuously evolves, but at given intervals, chunks of it are built in the real world.
The goal is to build a green, sustainable, liveable, futuristic, zero-carbon city from scratch, based on real parameters.
Clean energy is the starting point of everything else.
Say we locate it on the coast of Northern Mauritania [link] - this place, because it's very sunny [link] and especially windy [link] there. You can use solar and wind energy. There's one big wind-turbine and one big concentrated solar power site. But that's it. Other resources in this desert: sand, salt and lime. Sea-water. So you can make glass (just a suggestion) or desalinate water. For the rest, the place is dry, empty. And it's your task to start building with these scarce resources.
Obviously, in the real world we will cooperate with the few local people who live there.
The sustainability of everything produced in and traded by the city will be measured by a whole range of parameters (soil, erosion, water and energy use, carbon balance of products and services, etc...).
COMPETITION AND COLLABORATION
Now the crux of the matter is that users get shares in the city, according to their contributions made during its design phase. As they play, they help design the city, and they make interventions that could either last, or be deleted by other users. You can only delete someone else's design or a part of it if your new proposition scores better on the carbon footprint and incomes.
A counter indicates all the carbon-expenses (you can't go above zero) and potential incomes of all actions (you could grow tomatos in greenhouses, irrigate them with desalinated water and export them at market prices; but you could just as well choose to use available resources in another way). All calculations are based on a complete life-cycle assessment of products and services.
You can make an intervention, and run a long-term simulation, based on real data. To see where the balances go.
(Some inputs like labor are not included or taken from a baseline. Other valuations of available resources will be calculated at current market prices.)
Anyways, you see the point.
1. Say you build part of the city as the first user. You get 100 points, points are assigned to the simulated balances (carbon/income).
2. User 2 comes in and proposes a new design that scores better on the parameters. The chunks which he changes, count for his points.
3. User 3 comes in and builds an entirely new proposal, which scores much much better; this then becomes the new starting point.
Population growth is driven by simulations of people procreating in the city, taking real life parameters. (They need food, water, etc...).
As the city evolves, after a given deadline, parts that have reached a virtual 'optimal' level of efficiency (parts that remain unchanged by the vast majority of users, because they are seen as most efficient), are built.
Users who contributed to this part get rewarded, they get a share in this part of the city. For each type of intervention, you get points (it won't be easy to assign points to each action, but could be done). Shares are of course tradeable.
In the computer game, you can't change parts of the city that have already been built in real life. Unless you pay the value of the shares that this chunk represents. This is a constraint that will make the connection between the real city and the simulated city tangible.
In short, the shares allow for a sense of competition, but the game as such is based on cooperation and on clear constraints.
At very regular intervals, the city's long-term future is projected by running a set of simulations, again based on real-life parameters. This will prove whether it is sustainable.
On the basis of these simulations, players can try to improve on the results, by redesigning parts of the city and its activities - this is the game, a continuously evolving process that should tend towards ever increasing efficiency.
We need someone to put in the starting capital for the wind-turbine and the solar plant (and maybe to build some other firsts). But eventually, the city must become entirely profitable all by itself.
Inspiration for the idea comes from a group of people who have been making ice in the desert, by using wind power. They also grew vegetables and melons. There, in that dry but windy desert of Northern Mauritania [link].
I'm not entirely clear on the system of shares and on how to assign points and on the feasibility of simulating stuff based on real parameters. It's a bit confusing for the time being. But I'm curious to see suggestions from Halfbakers!!!