There are video games that teach about math and baking and even recycling. Now, video game developers are focusing on content that draws attention to climate change and environmental protection. The hope is to give hope. The goal is to inspire action through a deeper understanding of the challenges our planet is facing. When you consider the irrefutable popularity of video games, content that educates and sparks passion for a cause has the potential to come into contact with a huge market within the gaming population.
Playing for the Planet Alliance
Inspired by preparations for the U.N. Climate Action Summit 2019, organizers launched Playing for the Planet Alliance. It is an accord between over 40 game design studios committed to using their gaming platforms to educate and encourage players to join the climate change fight through signing pledges and donations to environmental campaigns. The United Nations supported alliance resulted in player actions, including over 60,000 pledges signed for the U.N. campaigns and $800,000 in donations to different charities. Many notable names in the gaming industry are part of the alliance, with membership doubling in less than a year. Here are a few examples of how the industry is incorporating climate change information and calls to action into the game.
This long-standing, popular game allows you to build a city of the future. Developers included measurable impact on the decisions you make as you go. Will you end up with a city full of pollution or a city that thrives through investments in renewable resources?
The uber popular game ramped up the sustainability initiative with a new Pokémon only available during Sustainability Week in April.
The game is paper city building through solving puzzles. Along the way, players learn about renewable energy sources and self-sufficiency.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
The premise is a female lead fighting against a resort construction on a scenic island. Alba teaches players about conservation and the damaging aspects of construction on animals and the environment. A portion of the profits are donated to tree-planting initiatives.
If anyone is familiar with any video game, it’s probably Angry Birds. Developers got in on the eco-talk with in-game activities that bring awareness about deforestation. They felt it naturally complimented the theme of the game by showing the wildlife impact.
Mission 1.5 mobile game
This smartphone game informs players about climate change, providing visual feedback about decisions in the game that will help the world suppress the rate of global warming. The game also encourages players to cast a vote in a poll, which has become the largest database of public opinion about climate change actions ever conducted.
You guessed it by the name. This game challenges players to make decisions about waste and plastic recycling, resulting in dire consequences for a plastic-filled planet if the player fails to make conscientious choices about the garbage they dispose of.
Another highly popular computer game, Minecraft featured an educational “Radical Recycling” component that resulted in a $100,000 donation to The Nature Conservancy.
The classic game Civilization is moving to the classroom. With an interactive civilization build, students play in conjunction with teacher guided lessons and discussions about climate change.
This journey takes the player beneath the ocean’s surface as the head of a research team discovering the impacts of human activities on marine animals. Save the ocean habitat in this immersive underwater experience.
Winner of Jam’s UNEP’s choice award for 2021, Anno 1800 challenges the player to build a sustainable city on an environmentally-sensitive island. Wrong choices about overfishing or deforestation result in the city collapsing while wise choices about population growth and material selections allow the city to thrive.
Monitoring sheet ice in Antarctica has never been this much fun. Children of all ages learn the best tactics for maintaining the ice so the penguins can reach their destination.
The industry’s carbon reduction off screen
The power to provide information and request action via video game consoles is undeniable. Organizers of the Playing for the Planet Alliance recognize they have the potential to reach a significant number of the estimated three billion people in the world who regularly play some form of video game on a phone, gaming system, tablet or computer. But the commitment for change goes beyond the actions players take. In fact, 60% of the alliance’s members have committed to achieve net zero or carbon negative status before 2030.
Companies are investing the resources to measure the industry impact. Gaming giant Microsoft identified energy consumption in Watt-hours that mobile devices use while playing 30 minutes of video games. Similarly, Sony designed a carbon footprint tool to outline the carbon impacts of the gaming sector. They also improved the energy efficiency of the PlayStation four and five gaming systems. Other companies aimed a critical eye at the environmental impact of company travel, in-house waste and energy consumption and reducing the amount of plastics used in the industry.
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