Can games fight climate change?

Polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. Combating climate change seems like an impossible mission. But as difficult as it may seem, we must all do as much as we can. Our creativity, knowledge, and technology can help. For example, can serious games fight climate change? Yes, we think so.

Well, we know games cannot magically solve all climate change problems. In fact, games do not work at all as a ‘solution’ to climate change. They are a tool. Look at it this way: the earth is warming up (problem) because there are too many CO2 emissions (cause). So we need to use our bicycles more often instead of our cars (solution). To achieve this, we are going to use a serious game (a tool) that stimulates us to cycle to work more often.

This article consists of two parts,  where we highlight the possibilities of games as a tool against climate change. In this article we look at the biggest challenge in fighting climate change, that is, creating awareness, transferring concrete knowledge, and inspiring behavioural change. We also explore why games can help. In the second part, we share a case study on a climate change game we are currently developing.

The biggest climate change challenge

The effects of climate change are felt worldwide. We see the sad images on the news of melting poles, devastating storms, or farmers losing their harvest due to extreme drought. And if you don’t watch the news, you still notice that we can skate less often in the winter and have more heatwaves in the summer.

Solutions to combat climate change are currently being worked on at various levels. Think of the UN climate agreement in Paris where the Netherlands wants to emit 49% less greenhouse gases in 2030. Various knowledge institutions are also working with companies to reduce CO2 emissions. In addition, citizens are also informed about steps they can take against climate change, such as:

  • Travel to work by train, bus or bicycle more often.
  • If you do go by car, consider electric vehicles.
  • Limit distant air travel.
  • Eat plant-based foods.
  • Waste less food.
  • Insulate your home and install water and energy-saving measures.
  • Recycle products and buy second-hand.

But to make a real impact, people need to become more aware of these solutions to climate change.  So long as people are unaware of the solutions, they have no reason to make a behavioral change. Earlier, we wrote an article on behavioral change and serious games in which we answer the question of how behavioral change works. In that article, we showed that a person has to expose himself to a certain behavior for about 66 days for the new behavior to become a habit. Especially if one does not like the new behavior because he or she simply has to get used to it or misses old habits, the change is more difficult.  This is where serious games can help.

 

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Games make the fight against climate change fun

There are always people who are unenthusiastic about games, but this doesn’t downplay its entertainment effect. Whether it’s a game of chess, a soccer match or Angry Bird on your smartphone: games are entertaining. Serious games are just as entertaining, but the emphasis is on transferring knowledge or stimulating a change in behavior. How does that work?

The power of serious games, applied games or game-based learning (read the difference here!) lies in the way they are designed. Games use a challenging story with exciting characters that make it appealing to play. By completing challenges and unlocking rewards, players are motivated to play more often and longer. This provides a person with intense exposure to the game theme, which can be climate change, for example.

Another advantage of games is that they are even more fun when you play together. Most serious games, therefore, have a leaderboard where you can see the progress and top scores of your fellow players. This motivates you to achieve better scores.

In short: it is the fun factor that makes a game attractive and ensures that someone is exposed for a longer period of time to a subject such as climate change and its solutions. Games can be used to create awareness through in a fun way and encourage people to make small behavioral changes to combat global warming.

Klimaatverandering serious game water battle

In addition to combating global warming, it is also important to deal properly with the climate changes we are already experiencing. We call this climate adaptation.

At the moment we are busy developing the new serious game ‘Garden Battle’, where you can redesign your own garden in a digital world and make it as climate-proof as possible. In this game, you compete against your neighbours and also work together with them as a team against other neighbourhoods.  Ultimately, the game aims to teach and create awareness about sustainable gardening habits.

tim-laning

Would you like to know more about climate adaptation and the Garden Battle game? In part two of this article, we will elaborate on this! Do you have questions about serious games or would you like to know more? Please contact Tim Laning for an appointment:

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