Essay by Eric Worrall
Imagine content so tedious that watching other people play computer games can increase viewer interest.
Here’s how the gaming industry can shape perspectives on climate change
Dec 21, 2022
- The gaming industry is creating more games designed to educate players on the threats posed by climate change.
- While video games can encourage behavioural change among gamers, they can also create a false impression of easy fixes, research has found.
- The difficulty lies in visually representing the gradual, incremental nature of the problem, which is largely caused by an invisible gas, developers say.
The $200-billion gaming industry is increasingly featuring the climate crisis, but it’s just as likely to lead to harms as gains.
Platforms like YouTube and Twitch have encouraged some climate researchers to experiment with streaming to attract viewers, but with mixed results.
In 2018, Henri Drake, then a doctoral student in physical oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, started the channel ClimateFortnite to stream the popular video game Fortnite on Twitch. As he played, guests spoke about politics and the environment.
Several major publications covered the channel, but Drake shut it down after a few months.
ClimateFortnite went “predictably viral,” Drake said in an email. But he said the format was not an effective way to talk about science due to the game’s fast pace and the focus required to be effective.
An attempt to pivot to games like Eco and Civilisation VI, which were better for climate-based discussions, came at the cost of less engagement from viewers, he said.
“These games are excellent and effective at communicating both the problem of climate change (and, crucially, its solutions) but they unfortunately are not very appealing for live-streaming,” Drake said.
…Read more: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/12/gaming-industry-climate-change-games-environment/
The climate researchers could be onto something, but I’m not sure computer games are the solution they are looking for. They need to find an online activity which engages viewer interest, but does not tax them intellectually to such an extent they can no longer simultaneously discuss the climate crisis.