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9 fun video games that teach civil engineering skills

02 June 2023

Out of the wide variety of video games out there, we’ve found some that will not only entertain you for hours but teach you some key abilities along the way.

9 fun video games that teach civil engineering skills
Since the start of 2022, there's been an average of 24 million people logging onto Fortnite on a daily basis. Image credit: Miguel L

With the summer holidays just under a month away, we’ve put together a list of civil engineering-approved* video games that you can play to learn and develop related skills.

With some of them, you won’t even realise you’re learning!


1. Animal Crossing

This, frankly adorable, game features more civil engineering skills than you’d initially suspect.

The game is based around an island that you get to make entirely your own, making friends with the animals that live there.

As resident advisor, it’s up to you to plan, design, budget and execute your plans to get it to a five-star rating.

The island features different elevations and bodies of water (that later in the game you’ll be able to manipulate) so you must ensure every corner of the island is accessible by installing stairs and bridges.

You must also make room for your museum, tailor, shop, town hall, and the 10 houses of your cute animal neighbours. It calls for a smart use of space!

2. The Sims 4

This life simulation game has been around since the year 2000.

In it you’ll be able to create your own virtual people, called Sims, look after their needs and desires (yes, even the loo) and build their homes.

You’ll create your home from foundation to roof, picking up a few Sims architecture tips along the way.

But what we really wanted to highlight is the new civil designer career track within The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle extension pack.

The goal of this career track is to plan, design and present ideas for neighbourhood development, all with an eco-friendly focus.

You’ll start as a junior draftsperson and work your way all the way up to city master planner or master inventor. You even get to choose whether you work from home or from the office!

3. CityZen: Pollution Control

CityZen screengrab
ICE collaborated with members and high school teachers to create the game.

ICE’s very own CityZen: Pollution Control is a digital game that recreates tricky challenges that civil engineers face in real life.

Players need to research the causes of pollution and gain insight into the environmental, social, financial, and political aspects of civil engineering.

The game was developed with expert input from members of ICE’s education and inspiration advisory group.

It's a taster for the ICE CityZen Award, a team challenge for students aged 16-18 who are attending a UK school full-time.

Share your score and spread the word about civil engineering careers!

Play CityZen

4. Fortnite

Fortnite has taken the world by storm since it was released in 2017.

The most popular game mode is battle royale, where 100 players land on an island and must find gear to defend themselves from other players, all with the aim of being the last one standing.

This mode of Fortnite incorporates building as a key to success in the game. You can build walls, floors, roofs and stairs that allow players to take cover or obtain a vantage point.

There are different building materials which you can obtain by destroying things like cars, brick walls and trees. You guessed it, they’re metal, brick and wood.

Depending on which material you use, the building will take more or less time to complete, so it requires planning, strategy and good asset management. These are all skills that civil engineers need, too.

5. World of Goo

If you’ve been wanting to brush up on your physics understanding, in a fun way, then World of Goo is the game for you.

Consisting of millions of Goo Balls that live in this curious world, gameplayers must drag and drop these balls to construct structures like towers and bridges, but also cannonballs, zeppelins and... giant tongues.

There are multiple levels to explore, each with unique challenges that will test your construction abilities (handy for a civil engineering career!).

If you enjoy competition, there’s also a worldwide leaderboard that tracks the tallest towers of goo built.

6. Minecraft

Minecraft is what you call a sandbox game, which means that the player gets a high degree of creativity as to how they play.

In the Minecraft world, players can explore the infinite, boxy, 3D environment and modify it as their heart desires. As they say, “if you can dream it, you can build it”.

For this, players must obtain raw materials and craft tools to build structures, earthworks and simple machines.

As a budding civil engineer, you’ll learn how to plan your realm (blueprints are strongly suggested!), make the best use of space, and how to manage and choose the best resources.

If you’re playing in survival mode, then you’ll have the added challenge of protecting yourself from ‘wandering mobs’ - but we’ll leave you to find out more about that in the game.

7. Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines is one of the most realistic city-simulation games out there.

When it comes to creating your own city, the sky’s the limit, but remember that a key part of the game is maintaining it too!

You’ll build from the ground up, having to plan to meet a city’s various needs: education, water, electricity, police, firefighting, healthcare and a fully functioning transportation system.

Managing a city with almost a million people will also pose challenges such as pollution and traffic control. You must manage both to ensure your citizens’ health and your city’s efficiency.

And now, with the Cities: Skylines – Airports extension pack, you can give your city an airport and grow it to turn it into an international transportation hub. Think of Heathrow airport, for example.

8. Poly Bridge

Civil engineer and YouTuber, Real Civil Engineer, has called Poly Bridge the ‘ULTIMATE engineering game’.

Consisting of physics-based puzzle solving, the game spans over 100 campaign levels that will challenge you to build bridges as simple as a light car bridge to multi-deck creations.

Each level will ask you to build more complex structures, with further restrictions imposed, like which resources you can use, or what budget you must stick to.

If you’re feeling creative, the sandbox mode in the game will allow you to build the bridges of your dreams – as complex or absurd as you like.

Or channel your inner Brunel and create your own Clifton Suspension Bridge!

9. Planet Coaster

Did you know civil engineers are involved in building amusement parks and some of the world’s most thrilling roller coasters? The award-winning ICON roller coaster in Blackpool, UK, is an excellent example.

In the Planet Coaster video game, you will create and manage your own theme park.

From building roller coasters to laying paths, you must consider every aspect of your park to give your guests maximum satisfaction (and they’ll let you know!).

You’ll design scenery and optimise your rides, but the fun doesn’t stop there. You can also raise mountains, form lakes and build islands in the sky!

  • Ana Bottle, digital content editor at ICE