We are all characters in the video game known as life, and Planet Earth is our playing space. Out of the 7.6 billion people in the world, 2.2 billion of them play video games. Over the past few years, video games have undoubtedly taken the world by storm; with fast paced, challenging, and immersive games being created every day. However, we are yet to see a mainstream video game that tackles the biggest crisis currently facing humanity.
When it comes to issues such as climate change, it takes a lot to get the public’s attention. While we can see Earth slowly dying right in front of our eyes, we may have to inform others of climate change through a good video game. Although many educational games have been developed in the past, they lack the fun and creative aspect that attracts players in the first place. In order to combat climate change using video games, developers need to approach creating them as if they were just another game, rather than only focusing on the aspect of climate change.
If used properly, video games hold the ability to teleport players into a world remarkably different from their own, and present them with a daunting problem to solve while taking their brain to a new level. The attitude towards these games should not be to force the players to learn about climate change. Instead, it should be to make the problems accessible and approachable so that the players are able to gain the knowledge they need to fight against climate change. Without forcing the players to learn about climate change, this allows for the issue to emerge within the gaming community on its own, which can ultimately have a greater effect on climate change as a whole.
The gaming world is already filled with people who love to problem-solve, and so why shouldn’t we use this passion that’s already here to inspire current and future generations to invent solutions to fight against climate change? Oftentimes, we hear about climate change on the news or on the radio, however, many children may struggle with grasping the idea of what climate change truly is. Video games are able to educate, entertain, and frighten younger players about the effects of climate change by allowing them to experience it for themselves through a digital lense.
Although we may not have a modern game that has tackled climate change while successfully drawing in a huge audience, we do have SimEarth which was a game released in 1990 by climate scientist, James Lovelock; and designer, Will Wright; who successfully spread the word of climate change by creating a fun game out of it. In the game, the player lives on a fictional Earth and the whole point of the game was that the player had full control over the development of their planet. The game had details such as weather, geology, climate systems, and life forms. The most educational aspect of the game was that every one of the player’s decisions had a direct impact on Earth. To this day, SimEarth is still talked about since it was such a revolutionary game for its time. It’s surprising that we haven’t managed to design a game like that ever since.
Nevertheless, our past experiences with failed climate change games have taught us some valuable lessons that can be quite useful in future games. Perhaps the most important lesson for game developers is to keep the games simple and easy to operate. The science behind climate change is already complicated enough, so there’s no reason for the games to be as well. The key is to keep the game straightforward, like in Pac-Man, with not too many twists and turns along the way.
In addition, the solutions presented in the game should also work in real life to tackle climate change. There’s no point in developing a game about climate change, if all the solutions players use to solve it in the game don’t work in real life. Lastly, we need to all work together to solve climate change. Similar to how video games can serve as a social platform to connect players together, video game developers should also work together and apply all their different skills to create an impactful game. Climate change may affect people in different ways, but at the end of the day, we’re all trapped playing the game of climate change. However, unlike in a video game, we won’t get the chance to start over with climate change.