At first glance, Trash Tycoon is about restoring a city to its former clean glory. In the first play session, it's overwhelming to imagine the effort required to clean up the first neighborhood, let alone the grayed out and locked areas. Fast forward a few months, and we've got players submitting comments on our Forums and Facebook Page saying that they need more trash! They have clean cities, dozens if not hundreds of decorations, and the extensive list of achievements completed, and yet, there's still a certain dissatisfaction with an immaculate city. Why?
From a game design perspective, there will always be the issue of creating and implementing enough content for hardcore players; if there's nothing interesting or new to do, a game ceases to be an enjoyable experience. Of course we're always working towards adding additional content (keep your eyes peeled for fresh goal sets and a brand new worm mini-game shortly!), but as a company that is working on a project that has real world implications and tie-ins, it's important for us to remember what sort of message our players are taking away from their play experience. And that message isn't that being clean and being eco-friendly are one in the same.
When a player reports that they've run out of resources, they're implying not only that they've no more trash to clean, but that they cannot proceed with production processes (whether related to completing goals, crafting decorations, or just upcycling cool items). The desire to live an eco-friendly lifestyle is present, but the resources aren't there to back it up. In the real world, the idea of actually running out of waste is almost unfathomable: the resources are plentiful (thanks to nearly 7 billion people on the planet Earth), but people don't always step up to the plate with proper waste management habits. Being clean is misinterpreted as being eco-friendly. Rather than seeing it as a resource, waste is an eye-sore. Move it out of sight, and problem is solved on an individual level, but the community suffers struggling to find an appropriate place to store and deal with waste.
With Trash Tycoon's finite representation of trash, a different sort of lesson emerges. Resources--waste included, but also other resources like heat, water, packaging, etc.--are not plentiful, and can't be thrown around carelessly. Their scarcity shapes not only their usage but their consumption, and Trash Tycoon reminds players that our resources don't come from some limitless stockpile. It also teaches players to think about waste as a powerful commodity, rather than as a aesthetically displeasing burden. Christine, one of our players, originally posted this story on Trash Tycoon's Facebook wall about a month ago:
"My 9 year-old son plays Trash Tycoon with me and it's had an effect! While waiting for the tires to be changed on my car we decided to walk around the parking lot. I found a penny (we're saving all $ we find on the ground towards a vacation) and so we started looking for more change. We found an old broken heart pendant, a nut, some wire, and some small car part that looked new and had pretty red stripes. My son was excited and I kept asking how could we use these things? He told me we could recycle them and make them into new jewelry.. going on and on until I told him, 'We don't have the resources to do that in real life like we do in Trash Tycoon! But we can recycle them.' As for the small car part with pretty stripes--the mechanic said he could keep it. Now we could turn that into a lovely necklace with some red glass beads and silver accents..."
Now that's the kind of thinking we all should be doing!