19 Climate Games that Could Change the Future

The prevalence of games in our culture provides an opportunity to increase the understanding of our global challenges. In 2008 the Pew Research Center estimated that over half of American adults played video games and 80% of young Americans play video games. The vast majority of these games serve purely to entertain. There are a growing number of games that aim to make a difference, however. These games range from those that show players the complexity of creating adequate aid packages and delivering them to places in need to games that require people to get out and work to improve their communities to do well in the game.

Looking at the climate change challenge there are a number of games and interactive tools to broaden our understanding of the dynamics involved. Climate Interactive, for one, has led the development of the role-playing game World Climate, which simulates the UN climate change negotiations and is being adopted from middle school all the way up to executive management-level classrooms. Many are recognizing the power of games and everyone from government agencies to NGOs to a group of teenagers is trying to launch a game to help address climate change. Below are some of the climate and sustainability-related games we’ve found. Let us know if you’ve found others.

Computer Games:

Climate Challenge

1. Climate Challenge: The player acts as a European leader who must make decisions for their nation to reduce CO2 emissions, but must also keep in mind public and international approval, energy, food, and financial needs.

2. Fate of the World: A PC game that challenges players to solve the crises facing the Earth from natural disasters and climate change to political uprisings and international relations.

3. CEO2: A game that puts players at the head of a company in one of four industries. The player must then make decisions to reduce the CO2 and maintain (and increase) the company’s value.

4. VGas: Users build a house and select the best furnishing and lifestyle choices to have the lowest carbon footprint.

5. CO2FX: A multi-player educational game, designed for students in high school, which explores the relationship of climate change to economic, political, and science policy decisions.

6. “Operation: Climate Control” Game: A multi-player computer game where the player’s role is to decide on local environmental policy for Europe through the 21st century.

My2050

7. My2050: An interactive game to determine a scenario for the UK to lower its CO2 emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2050. The user can select from adjustments in sectors from energy to transit.

8. Plan it Green: Gamers act as the planners of a city to revitalize it to become a greener town through energy retrofits, clean energy jobs, and green building.

9. Logicity: A game that challenges players to reduce their carbon footprints by making decisions in a virtual city.

10. Electrocity: A game designed for school children in New Zealand to plan a city that balances the needs of energy, development, and the environment.

11. Climate Culture: A virtual social networking game based on players’ actual carbon footprints and lifestyle choices. Players compete to earn badges and awards for their decisions.

12. World Without Oil: An alternate reality game that was played out on blogs and other social media platforms for 32 weeks in 2007 by thousands of players to simulate what might happen if there was an oil crisis and oil became inaccessible. Participants wrote blogs and made videos about their experience as if it was real.

13. SimCity 5 (coming 2013): With over 20 years of experience and millions of players the SimCity series has captured imaginations by putting players in control of developing cities. Recently announced, SimCity 5 will add among other things the need to face sustainability challenges like climate change, limited natural resources, and urban walkability.

Role-playing Games:

14. World Climate Exercise: A role-playing game for groups that simulates the UN climate change negotiations by dividing the group into regional and national negotiating teams to negotiate a treaty to 2 degrees or less.

15. “Stabilization Wedge” Game: A game to show participants the different ways to cut carbon emissions, through the concept of wedges.

Board Games:

16. Climate Catan: Building on the widely popular board game Settlers of Catan, this version adds oil as resource that spurs development but if too much is used it also instigates a climate related disaster which can ruin development.

17. Climate-Poker: A card game with the aim to have the largest climate conference in order to address climate change.

18. Keep Cool- Gambling with the Climate: Players take on the roles of national political leaders trying to address climate change and must make decisions about the type of growth and balance the desires of lobby groups and challenges of natural disasters.

19. Polar Eclipse Game: A game where players navigate different decisions in order to chart a path to future that avoids the worst temperature rise.

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  1. […] In a world of interacting parts, where one things lead to another, which leads back to the other and off to another, simulations can help us understand the pathways that will address the challenges we face. These tools below complement the simulations we have created at Climate Interactive to see what works in addressing climate change. Thanks to our colleague at MIT’s Climate CoLab, Rob Laubacher, who pulled together this collection. Last year we covered some of these simulations in our popular review of games focused on climate change. […]

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