After Gore’s 24 hours of climate reality back in September, I thought that he’d pretty much hit rock bottom with faking the science in it. Even Nature thought it was dumb. I thought we couldn’t possibly see anything stupider than that. I was wrong.
Al Gore has announced a partnership with PSFK to make a series of
propaganda climate games. Here’s what he has to say about it:
Games are the new normal. The popularity and proliferation of smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices—coupled with a wide variety of social networking platforms—provide fertile ground for the incorporation of games into our lives in fresh, new ways. Whether it’s playing Scrabble on your iPhone or Farmville on Facebook, now millions fill the interstitial moments of their lives with the simple fun that these programs and apps provide.
As games have become ubiquitous, both the private and public sectors have begun to seriously look at the role that gamification can play in their work. Game design, techniques and mechanics, have something to teach those of us who are seeking to engage people on issues of social importance.
In the forty years that I have worked to build public awareness of the need to urgently solve the climate crisis, I have always sought out new methods of communication— from my slideshow on three Kodak carousels (which evolved from an actual slideshow to a multi-media presentation on Keynote)—to my work on An Inconvenient Truth, the “Live Earth” global concerts, “24 Hours of Reality” on the web, and an app for the iPhone and iPad called Our Choice. Exploring the interplay of gamification and social change is a fascinating challenge, and one that I have been exploring for the last three years. Clearly, there is tremendous potential for advocates to reach entirely new audiences with games that are engaging, fun, and motivational.
Recently, I was introduced to Piers Fawkes and the wonderful team at PSFK and for the past several months The Climate Reality Project, PSFK and I have collaborated in an open source “Gaming for Good” Challenge. I hope that you will enjoy the results of this collaboration and that it will encourage you to think creatively about social impact games.
Here’s a video where Al hypes the new battle for young minds:
He’s got a whole gaming racket. For example:
CLIMATE HEROES. GET READY TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Climate Heroes is an online game that capitalizes on the long-standing role of superheroes as beacons of goodness in our lives. This game gives users the opportunity to become a superhero and take up the fight to solve the planet’s climate issues. The future of the planet is in your hands. Create your profile and save the world! Users are able to select from a number of superhero avatars, such as Mr. Smog and Miss Waste, all of which are visually engaging and representative of a specific climate challenge. Users can capture climate abuse using their mobile phones and upload photos or share news items. Those that do so with regular frequency and take on the role of ‘influencer’ will be engaged by the Organization to do a public mission. A sample mission might be to organize a flash mob that sheds light on a specific issue.
There’s a lot of information and disinformation surrounding climate
change. But much of the disinformation can be debunked by following the
“money trail” of companies sponsoring the research and publication that
disseminates this false data. How do we encourage the public to think for
themselves and question the sources of their information? By encouraging
them to play “Climate Trail”, a simple text-based game that mirrors the
functionality of classic online games like “Oregon Trail”.
At the start of the game, each player is given a leadership role in a
community with set levels of renewable resources, atmospheric levels, and
other indicators of climate health. The goal is to reach the year 2036 with a
healthy and livable community. As game play proceeds, players are asked
questions like “Do you want clean coal or wind power to be your town’s main
source of power” or “Do you want to clear 10,000 acres of forest to create
more farmland?” Correct answers help boost resource levels while wrong
answers impact negatively on community health. After each answer, players
are also presented with information about choices that were made in the
real world (e.g. Portland, Oregon switched to natural gas for city vehicles
and reduced emissions 30%). Users will also be able to share answers across
social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
Once the initial levels have been completed, players are promoted
to a higher rank with responsibilities for larger and more complex
communities. As they progress to higher leadership levels they are also
greeted with new challenges (e.g. “Lobbyists want to meet with you to
discuss new vehicle standards.”).
Game play either ends when resource goals are reached on a global scale
or climate change has reached unacceptable levels and the community is
no longer sustainable. Players will be able to compare their performances
against real life politicians. They will also be given tips on where they
went wrong in the game (e.g. “You believed reports about Clean Coal
but research was actually funded by Mining Companies”) highlighting
both the money trail and the need for independent consumer research
on high impact environmental and climate issues.
CLIMATE REALITY PATROL
Idea: Social media activism meets gaming and rewards
Concept: Instantly tag your comments with Climate Reality keyword facts to
earn badges and rewards.
How it Works:
Climate Reality creates and hosts a database of short-form facts (1–2 sentences
each) tied to “hot topic” keywords. Each description includes a link to optionally
find a deeper resource of related information.
Users create a profile on The Climate Reality Patrol website, activate the browser
plugin, then begin patrolling the web, looking to dispel unfounded environmental
information in articles and comments from media sites, politicians, brands,
celebrities, blogs, etc.
Wherever commenting is allowed, users who’ve activated Climate Reality Patrol
can post responses including keywords that automatically pull facts served from
The Climate Reality database. The keywords are presented and activated via a
menu that appears as they type (similar to an advanced spell-check).
Other users who view these comments can hover over any of the activated keywords
to find a pop-up fact window that includes the respective “quick fact” and a link to
Each post would include #ClimateRealityPatrol and/or @ClimateRealityPatrol at the end by default, to brand the posts.
The Climate Reality Patrol website tracks user stats and features a leaderboard for all user rankings. A Facebook app displays rankings on individual user’s profiles.
Levels of “Climate Reality Activist” badges are awarded based on the amount
of false information a user has dispelled (based on the number of keywords they’ve posted). Rewards could include special recognition, invitation to events, or entry into exclusive contests.
This one takes the cake for silliness:
REALiTREE (pronounced RE-AL-i-TREE)
Realitree is a digital manifestation of our local environment and the
role that we are playing in sustaining its wellbeing. It is a game played
by different groups in many places. Individuals, teams, communities,
cities and even countries compete against their counterparts via Twitter,
Facebook and through other social tools.
A Realitree is like a huge Tamagotchi for which thousands of people care.
It is a massive projection showing a digital image of a tree, complete with leaves, branches, roots, sky and earth. Realitree functions like a real tree, in that it will thrive and suffer according to the health of its surrounding enviroment.
Realitree’s environment takes into account news media, so news stories that are in conflict with climate reality will reflect negatively on its health. Realitree will expose agents of the fossil fuel industry who propagate smear, innuendo, criminal hacking and leaking of out-of context snippets or lies.
Each Realitree will be fed two distinct types of data:
• Current, statistical environmental data about the surrounding community as well as news and insights about political and corporate forces working against the climate’s good health.
• Real-time updates using tweets and the various social networking activity of the Realitree’s caretakers. Anyone can participate in keeping it alive and thriving through their real world deeds and virtual nutrients, delivered through their social networking activity.
As their networks grow, they will be represented as the intertwined roots of the tree, keeping it alive, fed and guarded against attack.
The overall “health” of Realitree will be on constant display. With good activities, it will grow, multiply and sway appreciatively. With bad deeds, Realitree will appear to shake and wither. It will always display climate reality truths, news, facts and shares from participants throughout its community and all over the world. We envision “planting” 300 Realitrees in cities and towns across the globe.
Each caretaker will play on different levels and earn points by doing
different things. A single tweet, for example, may garner one point, while a Foursquare check-in to a “green” business or using clean energy at home will gain more points. On the Realitree website, through Facebook connections, people can form teams, compete against friends and measure their contributions to helping reverse the effects of climate change. On another level, Realitrees (planted in New York City, for example) could compete against every other city where Realitrees are placed.
Corporations would be allowed the opportunity to play and even remedy earlier misdeeds by correcting falsehoods and donating money to pay for real initiatives in winning communities. Those that create the healthiest environment for their Realitree win the game.
And finally, Climate Reality hits Farmville:
DESTINATION REALITY: FARMVILLE
It’s a funny thing when there are more virtual farmers than real ones on Earth.
Real life farmers see the effects of climate change, but do virtual ones? Let’s
partner with Farmville to drop a dose of Reality on the 31 million people who
log on daily to tend to their plants, harvest, and redeem gold coins for seeds,
supplies, and fuel.
We could partner with Zynga to plan the best way to expose crops to weather
and wind and offer The Climate Reality Project branded goods to help
Farmers mitigate and adapt to unexpected weather conditions. Goods such
as wind-powered tractors, windmills, jackets to shield you from the elements,
seeds for heartier crops like organic cassava and chickpeas, decorations like a
Climate Reality flag, rainwater collection troughs and green ring tags for your
livestock. We’d want to do this in a way that presents a challenge to Farmville
players, and makes it possible via gameplay mechanics to heal the destruction
caused by Climate events, illustrating that through action, we can change the
And while I didn’t expect to find such a ridiculous thing when I went looking, amazingly, some physics challenged fool has actually made a concept image:
From the website, the description:
Windmill-powered electric farm tractors.
The picture above shows a windmill-powered electric farm tractor. The tractor is shown with it’s windmill extended for recharging. When the tractor is parked,the tractor’s windmill is extended on a telescopic mast. The tractor remains parked like this with it’s windmill extended,for several hours. While it is parked,the windmill turns wind energy into electrical energy. The electricity produced by the windmill is stored in batteries located inside the tractor.
No, really. Somebody thinks this is the farming of the future.
And there’s more. Al has plans for farm animals, blogs, chatrooms, and school kids.
Read all about it here in this report gaming-for-good-psfk-111202215545-phpapp01 (PDF 8.5 MB)
I predict it will be even less successful than Al’s previous sideshow attraction, because lets face it, the games are stupid and without challenge.