Gaming to a Cool Future? Global Warming games

There are amazing resources on the web, with new wonderful sites coming on my radar scope multiple times a day. World Changing is one of those magnificent sites.

They have a philosophy there of focusing solely on issues, concepts, and actions that offer the opportunity for turning the world toward a better path for tomorrow.

After touring dieoff or finding other eloquently written reasons to be depressed with Jim Kunstler, it is time to head to WorldChanging to swim amid reasons for hope for positive change and to learn about something that I hadn’t thought of prior to open the website that day …

And, most of the time, World Changing does not disappoint.

Sometimes, this is simply magnificent writing and something that makes me think, like Alex Steffens’ Winning the Great Wager, which addresses the range of challenges that mankind faces in navigating the 21st century seeking to leave behind a 22d century worth living in.

There are the fantastic explanations of core concepts, such as Leapfrog 101.

“Leapfrogging” is the notion that areas which have poorly-developed technology or economic bases can move themselves forward rapidly through the adoption of modern systems without going through intermediary steps. We see this happening all around us: you don’t need a 20th century industrial base to build a 21st century bio/nano/information economy.

Or, an excellent way of framing, such a basic explanation of something that should be in every school and in everyone’s mind, like Energy’s ‘Three Rs’: A Primer, which lays out Energy’s equivalents of the ecological “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” which translates to “Reduce, Renewable, Remediate”.

Want to read about a carbon neutral fashion show? How about a billboard where the advertiser’s money pays for the solar panels on the other side of the billboard? Or, the home of the US government’s top researcher on zero-energy homes? Interested in passivhaus? Or …

You get the idea … it is a rich site, with a diverse range of coverage, endorsed by this blogger.

But, simply advertising WorldChanging would make the title of this diary false advertising. And, unlike too many marketeers, that’s not my intention.

With the release of the initial material from the 4th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the debate about whether there is Global Warming should be cooling down as the debate over what to do heats up.

How to translate this debate into comprehensible forms for anyone unable to wade through thousands of pages of reports and heavily footnoted tables?

As someone who, ever so many lives ago, once was a game tester (and gaming addict — mainly reformed), the clear answer: well, of course, with a good game.

WorldChanging has provided a window on the world of innovative gaming (like Documentary Games — want to take a side in the Paris Riots?) and Games as Political Lessons (such as Diplomacy or Food Force (feeding humanitarian refugees). But, as Alex Steffen wrote in Future-Making

Play changes the mind. Through play, we feel and experience and respond to new aspects of the world. Like art, play speaks to that part of us “which is a gift, and not an acquisition.” Because play is so powerful, games can open new visions of the possible to us in ways other art forms cannot.

Games already exert powerful if often unexamined influences in realms of our public debate we rarely give them credit for affecting, but more and more, game designers are choosing to make games which challenge us to play at building a better future.

Serious games now allow players to explore what it might be like to engage in non-violent revolution, public health responses to terror or epidemics, refugee aid work, peacekeeping, regional planning, public diplomacy, geopolitics, even climate crisis response and planetary management ala Bucky Fuller. [note: see original for links]

And, there are starting to be some quite interesting games related to Global Warming and, we might hope, the path toward a Cooler Globe. Strategem is a game to aid understanding of sustainable development. In other words, when you get too concerned about the games humanity is playing with the climate, you can start Playing Games with the Climate. For example, European Climate Forum has three different global warming related games. As they explain,

Climate games may make the difference when communicating highly complex issues of climate change because they introduce a rather simple but very important element into communication: having fun. As known from the science of learning, having fun catalyses learning processes remarkably and makes people interested in subjects they would not make inquiries into otherwise.
Climate games are both tools for communicating scientific issues and objects of scientific inquiry themselves. The latter applies because looking on the communication processes climate games trigger is one of the fields of the science of stakeholder dialogues.

All of the above is interesting … all well and good … but if you are interested in losing yourself right now in attempting to lead Europe (and the world) through the 21st century, it just might be time to head over to the BBC’s Climate Challenge.

Would the planet survive if you were in power? Innovate, trade and persuade other nations to help you save the environment.

This is part of the BBC’s Climate Change work, which includes an effort to mount a massive distributed computing effort to model Global Warming with ever greater fidelity and certainty.

Climate Challenge puts you in the shoes of EU leadership and forces you to make choices between five different policy arenas (national, trade, industry, local, household) while balancing your money, energy, water, and food resources. All, of course, while keeping your carbon load in mind.

The game isn’t perfect, by any means (after all, there are a total of just six elements that can be executed each ten-year turn), but there is the dynamic nature to the game. The developers are upfront about this dilemma:

The producers’ primary goal was to make a fun, challenging game. At times it was necessary to strike a compromise between strict scientific accuracy and playability. For this reason, Climate Challenge should not be taken as a serious climate change prediction.

But, the game is not about perfect scientific knowledge, but to “give players an awareness of some of the policy options available to governments.” In this, they have done an excellent job.

At the tail end, you might have brought the world with you … or not. And, you are ‘graded’ in three areas — enviornment, wealth/economy, and popularity.

Now, as for me, a few hours of sleep haven’t happened, lost to BBC’s game. And, well, every environmental score has been perfect. Wealth … well, according to the BBC, I have yet to do really well. And, popularity, I’ve ended up at 100% and at 0. And, in between …

Now, try it out … it is interesting … that is, try it out after you’ve taken the time to pass your comments here.


* If further interested, check out the If further interested, check out the Serious Games Initiative and Games for Change in addition to the WorldChanging gaming discussions.


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