Climate change is the most threatening challenge facing every living thing that calls Earth home since the big bang, so spreading awareness about the impending consequences and the possible solutions to climate change is paramount to our survival. The climate is not the only thing constantly changing, so is our society, that is why it is time to explore revolutionary collaborative outreach strategies that might seem silly or ineffective upon first consideration. One method of climate change analysis that is not new is using models in order to explore the ways that humans are negatively affecting the planet and potential ways that we can mitigate our impact and maybe even restore the ecosystem to a degree.
What if we combine the insight from climate science models with the potential for education and collaboration posed by a revolutionary technology such as video games? Video games should be an effective messenger for this emergency alert, because they are a powerful storytelling tool, naturally collaborative, and video game use increases every year. Did you know that roughly one third of the global population plays video games? In addition to the aforementioned reasons, climate change video games are advantageous because they can turn an issue that is somewhat inaccessible, due to its abstract and academic nature, into something that is tangible, immediate, and rewarding.
People are skeptical of how much video games can do to combat climate change, and rightly so, but climate change video games are meant to function as a stepping stone that subconsciously raises awareness and a sense of urgency about climate change, not an ultimate solution. A popular climate change video game would raise awareness about the nature and urgency of climate change. In addition, a mainstream climate change video game would reach millions of bright young people and inevitably some of them will come away with valuable perspectives on the issue. Not to mention the potential for breakthroughs that is created when hundreds of climate scientists, computer scientists, engineers, and other academics unite for the purpose of building the video game/simulation.
Climate Game Jam is an event that does exactly that; teams of scientists and game designers form teams and then compete against each other to see who can design the best game in a 48 hour time period. In 2016, a game called Climate Quest won first place in the college category; Climate Quest was designed by Dargan Frierson, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences, and Zuoming Shi, a computer science and engineering doctoral student. Climate quest is a cartoon game, where you must send your five heroes, a climate scientist, urban planner, agricultural scientist, and more, to address different consequences of climate change and save the world. Go download Climate Quest for free on at the App Store. While it is entertaining and educational, Climate Quest does not even come close to the potential of video games to reach and influence people. Scientists must collaborate with top game designers in order to incorporate a climate change model/simulation into a game that the public will accept on a larger scale. For example, the video game Fortnite is extremely popular across the globe; what is stopping climate game designers from applying the elements that make a game like Fortnite popular, to a climate change video game?