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LOS ANGELES — Move over, CityVille. SimCity is coming back to town.


The game franchise that first defined the city-building genre in 1989 will be re-released next year as a multi-player online computer game, developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts Inc.


This time, however, SimCity has an environmental theme, a la “An Inconvenient Truth,” the 2006 documentary about Al Gore’s campaign to educate the public about global warming. In SimCity, a fetish for coal burning plants in one city can spread smog and sickness in adjacent cities run by other players, for example. 


This could prompt players to ask, “What would Al Gore do?” But because it’s a game, Maxis developers know players often prefer to be mischievous. Every toddler who builds towers of wooden blocks knows it’s more fun to knock them down, Godzilla-style.


And so it will be with SimCity.


“For the first time in SimCity, players’ decisions will have consequences that will extend beyond their city limits,” said Lucy Bradshaw, senior vice president of Maxis. “It’s up to the players to decide whether to compete or collaborate to shape the world of tomorrow — for better or for worse.”


To announce the title, Electronic Arts tapped documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim for a fireside chat at its news conference Monday night at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Guggenheim, who directed “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Waiting for Superman,” professed a love of the SimCity franchise as a player.


Guggenheim said documentaries, as with games, are still entertainment — not a high school science lecture.


Bradshaw, who heads up the Maxis studio in Emeryville, Calif., concurred, promising plenty of fun when the game comes out sometime in 2013.

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