Angle: Abnormal weather on melting icebergs, climate change learned through games | Reuters

LONDON (14th Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The icebergs have melted and the continents have shrunk to a handful of islands. The survivors try to rebuild the “floodplain”.

On December 14, the iceberg melted and the continent was reduced to a handful of islands. The photo is a polar bear. Taken in Greenland in September 2016. Photo provided. (Reuters 2022/Thomas W. Johansen/NASA Oceans Melting Greenland)

This is the setting of a video game released this year. Games are being used in new ways to educate players about climate change and what will happen if we don’t get it under control.

In the “Eco” game developed before this one, the earth is still alive and human society is growing. An asteroid will eventually hit Earth, but the inhabitants don’t know it yet.

Eco and Floodlands approach climate change from different directions. The former depicts impending destruction, the latter the world after. It’s part of the gaming industry’s attempt to join the climate change debate. The global gaming industry has a reach of $200 billion.

“This game represents the worst-case scenario,” Kacper Kwiatkowski, designer of Floodlands and president of game studio Vile Monarch, explained in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“In our first study, the realistic sea level rise was a few meters. In the game, we chose to assume 10-15 meters to make it more dramatic, but now this dramatic scenario is not necessarily non-existent. It seems to have become unrealistic.” Monarch said.

The world’s gaming population is approximately 2.6 billion. Environmental activists and governments hope the games will encourage behavioral change in gamers.

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Hamid Homatash, a computer games lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, said the goal is to bridge the gap between what people know and how they feel.

“Everyone has been told that icebergs are melting, but what does that really mean? It seems a bit farfetched because the reality is nonsense.”

At the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) in 2017 and COP24 the following year, Homatash said players will fight the effects of global warming based on the assumptions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Introduced the game “Earth Remembers” to the participants.

“I heard gasps from people playing in the room,” she recalls. “I was really shocked and horrified by what was happening in front of me,” she said.

Only 42 percent of American adults believe climate change should be a top priority, according to the Pew Research Center. In Israel and Russia, about half think climate change is a minor or no threat.

British university student Ewan Dineen, 19, said playing ‘Eco’ raised awareness of the climate change crisis.

“I’ve known about climate change for a long time, but I haven’t paid much attention to my environmental impact,” says Ewan Dineen. After spending 500 hours playing, he now prefers to walk instead of drive, eat less meat and carry his own water bottle.

Despite these benefits, experts say games can also instill bad habits.

Nintendo’s popular game Animal Crossing, for example, allows players to plant fruit trees in a sustainable way, but also allows them to cut down an entire island. Studies have shown that game players feel more positive about their choices, whether they are resource-friendly or destructive.

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Additionally, Civilization VI’s “Storm Coming” is a game that considers how to prepare cities for survival in the face of sea level rise, drought, and abnormal weather conditions due to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Countermeasures include defensive measures such as building levees, as well as cutting-edge technologies such as controversial carbon capture and storage (CCS).

While the game makes the devastating impact of climate change more felt, it also shows how technologies like CCS are relatively easy to implement. This can have real-world consequences.

Elliott Honeyvan Arnolda, from the University of East Anglia’s Graduate School of Environmental Sciences, warned: ‘It could give rise to the feeling that there is a technology that can solve the problem of global warming without the involvement of various policies.’

“Representing technology without politics, politics without conflict, could lead to some pretty damning ideas about solutions to climate change,” he said.

Game commentary platforms like YouTube and Twitch have encouraged researchers to experiment with commentary to increase the audience of weather-related games, with mixed results.

In 2018, Henry Drake, then Ph.D. guests commented on politics and the environment while playing the game themselves.

Play-by-play “became as popular as expected,” but Drake shut down the channel after a few months. The game was fast-paced and not an effective place to talk science, he said.

Games like Eco and Civilization VI are better suited to discussing climate change than live streams, Drake said, but with lower viewer engagement.

“These games are great and useful for discussing both climate change (and more importantly solutions to it), but unfortunately they’re less appealing for live broadcasts,” Drake said. “The fundamental difficulty in making climate change exciting (in games and in the real world) is that climate change is a creeping, gradual problem largely caused by unseen gases,” he explained in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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(Journalist Adam Smith)

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