SimCity BuildIt in the Language Classroom

SimCity BuildIt is mobile-based city building game available on Android and iOS that has become very popular both in the US and internationally. In its first three weeks, it was downloaded more that 15 million times (Maiberg, 2015). In an interview with GamesBeat, EA Mobile vice president and group general manager Jason Willig claimed that most players “say they love it,” and referenced the 4.5 star rating of the game in the US, France, Korea, Germany, and the UK (Newman, 2015). He also said that his team has “designed SimCity BuildIt to keep players engaged for years to come,” and pointed to forthcoming improvements that may include allowing players to communicate with each other regarding their cities (Newman, 2015). Because of this potential for sustained player engagement, the game lends itself well to being used in the world language classroom. In order to aid educators in their implementation of the game in their classrooms, this post will provide an analysis of the usefulness of SimCity BuildIt and will give examples and ideas of different types of activities that a teacher could use in the language classroom.

SimCity BuildIt is especially effective for its potential to engage learners; there is a wide variety of topics that it provides for students to interact with while using the target language. For example, this game includes themes like leadership, resource allocation, population satisfaction, trade, taxation and alternative sources of funding, city planning, services, and perception of politicians. In addition, the game itself has a very user-friendly, simple design. Players who are not accustomed to playing digital games will find it easy to use, and learners, even at novice levels, should find support in the simple layout, straightforward tasks, and clear direction. In short, they will be able to focus their efforts on the language-learning aspect of the game rather than potentially feeling disoriented by gameplay.’

SimCity1 SimCity3

Another benefit of incorporating SimCity BuildIt into the world language classroom is the autonomy, and resulting engagement, that it affords learners. For the most part, learners are free to develop their cities as they see fit (within some limiting guidelines), and at the end of their creation, they have a product to reflect upon. This autonomy makes the learner an integral and interested actor in the game, and by extension, part of the language classroom. It is not insignificant that the learners are given the role of mayor and have the associated responsibility and accountability for the wellbeing of their cities. That they get to do it all through their target language may raise their expectations of what they are able to accomplish in that language.

SimCity4 SimCity2

Because the language used in the game is relatively simple and its associated topics are complex, the game can easily serve as a springboard for activities targeted toward all levels of language learners. Some potential themes and sample expansion activities for each level are listed below.

Ideas for activity topics with SimCity BuildIt in the classroom:

  • For novice: city vocabulary, locations, directions, describing happiness/reasons for it.
  • For intermediate: resource allocation, leadership roles, trade, buying and selling norms, travel to other cities, what to do in a city.  
  • For advanced: different parties’ obligations in a city, sources of funding, describing hypothetical scenarios, disaster response, comparing cities.

Possible learner expansions based on SimCity BuildIt:

  • Learners write an article on mayor dissatisfaction from the perspective of a Sim in their city.
  • Learners interview each other about being a mayor and the responsibilities it entails.
  • Learners write directions to a family member for how they can get from one location in their city to another.
  • Learners write an email conversation between someone comparing taxation in their Sim city and a real-world city, where their target language is spoken.
  • Learners compare their own city’s leadership to that of their Sim city, and then research and write a letter to their city’s mayor, either offering praise or suggestions for improvement.
  • Learners research and present on a service or resource and how it is used in their Simcity and their hometown.
  • Learners propose infrastructure changes in their own cities to increase happiness.

A set of classroom activities for SimCity BuildIt, in addition to other game-enhanced activities, can be found in the Publications section of Games2Teach, found here.

Because of the ease of use, wide variety of possible activities, and the fact that the game puts learners in a leadership position, SimCity BuildIt is a wonderful addition to the language classroom. It comes in many languages (English, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish) and is available on iOS and Android devices. Find it here.

By: Kathryn Carpenter


Reference List

Maiberg, E. (2105, January 8). SimCity BuildIt downloaded 15 million times in three weeks. Retrieved from:

Newman, H. (2015, June 6). Simcity BuildIt has become the most played Simcity ever, EA Mobile claims. Retrived from:

All photos and game screenshots from gameplay of Simcity BuildIt by EA.

2 thoughts on “SimCity BuildIt in the Language Classroom

    1. Games2Teach Admin Post author

      It ultimately depends on which country you are downloading the app from, since each country will have different terms of service for every app store (Apple, Google Play, Amazon). Because this game is published by a major corporation (EA) and is available on several different platforms in various languages, it will most likely be available in other countries, including those in South-East Asia.

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