The huge reach of video games is increasingly being used to educate people about sustainability and climate change.
A group of young people catches Pokémons together on their smartphones. But they didn’t just come to play. In April 2018, Pokémon Go developer Niantic drummed up a large number of players in 19 countries around the world to collect a total of 6500 kilograms of garbage. The group is not the only one who wants to playfully increase young people’s awareness of climate protection. After all, around 2.5 billion people play video games like the Rise of Kingdoms (https://rok.guide/) worldwide. The study ” Playing for the Planet ” by the Norwegian environmental organization GRID-Arendal and UN Environment encourages developers to use their environmental impact.
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The will is there, says study author Trista Patterson in an interview with the futurezone. The industry is very competitive and therefore relies primarily on the loyalty of the players to the brand and the syndicate. And the community has one common concern: climate protection. “You are ready to invest in these values. Game developers have the ability to keep reminding them what players can do for the climate. You can send messages to save energy or announce nearby environmental protection events, ”says Patterson.
Games are positive, fun and always reward players. The Salzburg company Polycular also follows this approach. She develops educational games for children and apps for adults. With their “City Caching Salzburg” smartphone app, users are introduced to sustainable places in Salzburg, such as vegan restaurants, on a scavenger hunt.
Polycular published “ Ökogotchi ” in 2017. Children take care of the little green alien torby. It faces a multitude of life decisions: Should it buy a new cell phone? Does it go on the motorway or by bus? The game for children between 10 and 14 years should be played in schools or study groups. The free app and an accompanying folder are required, which can also be downloaded free of charge.
At eye level
Quiz questions and small tasks convey the impact of personal decisions on the environment. “After playing, the children ask very specific questions about whether their smartphone is really that bad and whether other children have to suffer because of it. The game is simple and does not require a raised index finger, ”explains Robert Praxmarer , founder of Polycular.
By implementing complex topics as an educational game, you are on an equal footing with the children and young people. ” Smartphones are an important factor in their everyday life, and you can pick them up there with games,” says Praxmarer .
With the electronic waste mentioned, you hit a sore point in the game industry. The 50 million tons of electronic waste that are produced worldwide every year are expected to grow to 120 million tons by 2050. This also includes a variety of cell phones, laptops, and consoles that actually work. That is why “Playing for the Planet” is also committed to making gaming companies aware of the need to handle devices with care.
A developer studio in Vienna wants to implement exactly this content. In a smartphone game, “Rebuilders” wants to make recycling a concept. After the climate catastrophe, players use the resources they still find on Earth to arm themselves against attacking robots. Particularly sustainable bases and vehicles give them an advantage in the game. The recycling of electronic waste becomes game mechanics that are used intuitively.
Air Games Collection
You only stumble upon such games in everyday life by chance. The Polish platform Games4Sustainability provides a remedy. This is where video games have collected that deal with content from the 17 climate goals of the United Nations. If you are looking for games that deal with climate change, for example, you will find a wide selection. One such game is “World Rescue”. With one of five characters from around the world, children learn the effects of climate change, air pollution and drought in their own country on the entire globe.
Gerald Reitschmied is the developer of “Rebuilders”. The cell phone game planned for 2020 makes climate protection a game principle. Revenue should be invested in environmental protection and gamers should be rewarded for their sustainable lifestyle.
How do you balance suitability for the masses without a good cause?
If we want to turn things around, there are two approaches in our eyes: I help individuals or I help everyone. If I want to help everyone, it takes to reach and resources. That is why our focus is on the mass market.
How do you convey to players whether they are successful in climate protection?
It is difficult to introduce a simple metric here. “Thanks to you, Sepp the polar bear has not starved to death” or “Your sustainability level is five”, unfortunately, cannot be measured realistically. The influence should not only be directly visible. We also want to spread optimism and optimism.
How are players rewarded for their efforts?
If gamers plan their vacation in real life by train instead of by plane, the savings will be calculated. They get rewards for this in the game. We will publicly communicate other actions, such as our donations for climate protection, amendments to the law, which were supported by the gaming community, and local projects such as tree planting actions.
How sustainable do you actually work yourself?
Our office runs on green electricity. That sounds as hypocritical as it is. This year I have had a business trip by plane with no alternative. Something has to be done and everyone has to tackle it but to expect that we collectively act perfectly is not realistic. But we do our best and try to be a role model.