If you want city planners to learn how to handle the serious problems metropolises face, let them play games. IBM’s CityOne is kind of like a SimCity for urban planners and city officials. The “serious game” sets up scenarios where players  deal with situations like water waste, rising energy costs and a growing population. Through the virtual scenarios, developers hope urban officials will learn how to tackle issues as they relate to energy, water, banking and retail sectors.

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There’s really no better time for IBM to create a learning tool like this. Experts estimate that the world’s urban populations will double by the year 2050, with an average of one million people moving into cities every week. Already, cities use about 75 percent of the world’s energy–just think about what will happen when those centers’ populations double in size!

Here’s an example of a mission the game might lay out (should you choose to accept it): Energy costs are rising, and the city’s water usage is growing twice as fast as the population. At the same time, the city is losing about 40 percent of it’s water supply through leaky infrastructure. Players would then need to put a water management system in place by using real-time data to make their decisions.

The game recently debuted at IMPACT 2010, a conference held in Las Vegas. Hopefully CityOne will prepare city leaders and planners for the host of energy and water problems urban centers face each year. And at any rate, playing a game has got to be more fun than sitting through a boring lecture.

Via Popular Science