July 13, 2023 by Ellie Johnston
The prevalence of games in our culture provides an opportunity to increase the understanding of our global challenges. The Pew Research Center estimates that nearly half of American adults play video games. The vast majority of these games serve purely to entertain. However, there are a growing number of games that aim to make a difference.
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 games Climate Action Simulation and World Climate, which are 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.
1. Climate Action Simulation: A highly interactive, role-playing game for groups to play different stakeholders and explore the solutions needed to take action on climate change.
2. World Climate: A role-playing game for groups that simulates the UN climate change negotiations by dividing into regional and national negotiating teams to create a treaty to limit global warming to 2 degrees C or less.
3. “Stabilization Wedge” Game: A game to show participants the different ways to cut carbon emissions, through the concept of wedges.
4. Climate Fresk: A science-based collaborative workshop that aims to help people understand the causes and consequences of climate change.
5. Survive the Century: A fictional game informed by real science to educate players on the political, environmental, and social choices humans face between 2021 and 2100.
6. Ixion: Set in futuristic space, this city-builder game has players manage resource extraction, infrastructure, and their crews to keep humanity alive as Earth suffers from ecosystem collapse.
7. Floodland: An online city-building strategy game set in a world submerged by global warming. Players must balance conflicting cultures and limited resources to guide their population into a new age.
8. MacKay Carbon Calculator: Players learn how their choices impact UK greenhouse gas emissions and create pathways to understand how the UK might reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 and beyond.
9. Crunch Time 2.0: Crunch Time is an interactive science and sustainability quiz game designed for kids of all ages. The game can be played individually or in classroom mode.
10. Mission 1.5: An online game developed by UNDP and Playmob that educates players about climate solutions through voting on key climate actions they want to see adopted. The responses are used by UNDP to help governments develop and implement climate plans and policies around the world.
11. Eco: Eco is an online community-based game where players collaborate to develop laws and an economy to stop a meteor on a collision course with the planet, without polluting the world.
12. The Climate Game: An online game developed by the Financial Times that challenges players to reduce the negative effects of climate change with a goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
13. Terra Nil: An environmental strategy game centered around ecosystem reconstruction. Players transform a barren wasteland into a thriving ecosystem, reintroduce wildlife, and then depart without leaving a trace.
14. Climate Catan: Building on the widely popular board game Settlers of Catan, this version introduces oil as a resource that promotes development but can also trigger climate-related disasters if overused, potentially ruining progress.
15. Keep Cool - Gambling with the Climate (in German): 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.
16. Polar Eclipse Game: A game where players navigate different decisions in order to chart a path to a future that avoids the worst temperature rise.
17. Energetic: A board game about the future of New York City. Players can observe the extent of change and cooperation required to transform the city’s energy demand and supply in time to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.
18. Daybreak: From the creators of Pandemic, this cooperative board game offers an optimistic vision of the near future, where players have the opportunity to construct groundbreaking technologies and resilient societies needed to decarbonize the world.
19. Change Game: This app allows players to test the resilience of their cities by constructing, managing resources, and controlling emissions. The higher the level of emissions generated by players, the greater the challenges they must confront.
To join a network of game developers and people interested in climate change games check out the International Game Developers Association Climate Special Interest Group.