Essay by Eric Worrall
Reaching into homes and messing with people’s minds, Guardian style.
Can video games change people’s minds about the climate crisis?
A new wave of game makers are attempting to influence a generation of environmentally conscious players. Will it work, and is it enough?
Lewis Gordon Thu 26 Jan 2023 20.30 AEDT
It was scary. It made you realise how, despite all the sophistication of modern society, we’re still reliant on water falling from the sky.” Sam Alfred, the lead designer at Cape Town-based video game studio Free Lives, vividly remembers his city nearly running out of water. During 2018, the area surrounding South Africa’s second largest city suffered months of dwindling rainfall. Dams were unable to replenish themselves at the rate its inhabitants required. Water was rationed. Businesses shut. The situation even called for its own grim version of the Doomsday Clock: hour by hour, the city ticked ever closer to Day Zero, marking the end of its fresh water supply.
Terra Nil, the video game that Alfred has been developing since 2019, is a response to these terrifying events. Dubbed a “city-builder in reverse”, it foregoes the consumption and expansion of genre classics such as Civilisation and SimCity to paint a picture of environmental restoration. Starting with arid desert, it’s up to the player to rewild a landscape using various technologies – a toxin scrubber, for example, or a beehive. At light-speed, and with eye-massaging flushes of emerald green and azure blue, the environment transforms into lush vegetation. Terra Nil’s simplicity is as beautiful as its visuals, offering the satisfaction of a colouring book while doling out a clear-eyed critique of environment-wrecking extraction.
Regardless of whether it changes minds or behaviour, there’s an appetite from game makers and players alike to engage with the ongoing threat of global heating. Games such as ABZÛ and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure – ecological fables set in the ocean and on land – are among many that show us a way of seeing the world that isn’t through an aiming reticle.Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/games/2023/jan/26/can-video-games-change-peoples-minds-about-the-climate-crisis
Back in the real world, even “The Conversation” admitted Cape Town’s 2017-18 water crisis was in large part caused by corruption and incompetence, not climate change, same as most of South Africa’s other problems.
The cause of the crisis
The civil society group, South African Water Caucus, reveals that national government’s reluctance to release drought relief funding stemmed from spiralling debt, mismanagement and corruption in the national Department of Water and Sanitation.
This claim is supported by the Auditor General, which attributes “irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure” to the department exceeding its 2016-2017 budget by R110.8 million.
The department has no funding allocated to drought relief in the Western Cape next year. Again, provincial government will have to foot the bill.
Had systems in national government been running smoothly, Cape Town’s water crisis could have been mitigated. Appropriate water allocations would have made more water available to Cape Town. And with timely responses to disaster declarations, water augmentation infrastructure could have been up and running already.
Cape Town teaches us that water crises are rarely a matter of rainfall. Understanding disasters like droughts involves seeing the issue from many different perspectives, including politics.Read more: https://theconversation.com/cape-towns-water-crisis-driven-by-politics-more-than-drought-88191
As for the Guardian’s advocacy of using computer games to increase climate concern, it is difficult to imagine something more reprehensible.
A lot of computer game players are young people. Young people are already so frightened of climate change, they are destroying themselves with hard drugs, because they cannot face their fear.
The following is testimony from Dr. Alex Wodak, a high profile Australian expert on drug rehabilitation, to an ice addition inquiry in NSW in
First, the threshold step is redefining drugs as primarily a health and social issue rather than primarily a law enforcement issue. Second, drug treatment has to be expanded and improved until it reaches the same level as other health services. Third, all penalties for personal drug use and possession have to be scrapped.
Fourth, as much of the drug market as possible has to be regulated while recognising that part of the drug market is already regulated, such a methadone treatment, needle and syringe programs, medically supervised injecting centres. It will, of course, never be possible to regulate the entire drug market. We have regulated parts of the drug market before. Edible opium was taxed and regulated in Australia until 1906 and in the United States Coca-Cola contained cocaine until 1903.
Fifth, efforts to reduce the demand for powerful psychoactive drugs in Australia have had limited benefit and require a new focus. Unless and until young Australians feel optimistic about their future, demand for drugs will remain strong. Young people, understandably, want more certainty about their future prospects, including climate, education, jobs and housing affordability. Change will be slow and incremental, like all social policy reform.
As Herb Stein, as adviser to President Nixon said:
Things that cannot go on forever don’t.
Drug prohibition cannot go on forever and will be replaced by libertarian paternalism. Thank you.
…Source: Wayback Machine
I’m not an advocate of censoring computer games, but in my opinion there is nothing praiseworthy about actions designed to increase climate concern. I believe climate change focussed games could tip even more people, especially vulnerable young people, into a crisis from which they might not recover. Climate concern amongst young people especially is already cranked up so hard that some of the kids are breaking.
It’s not just video games, it’s culture in general. Movies, advertising, music, education, media of all kinds! The corruption is world wide. Governments, medical, LEO, religion, technology you name it. Black pilled? Perhaps, but, not by much.
Youth in Asia.
The extent to which our minds can differentiate between real world experiences and artificially created one (movie, games, etc) is likely much more limited than its commonly believed. The human brain has only been exposed to artificial media that is convincing enough to be mistaken for reality for a few short decades.
The idea that you will “Nudge” people in a particular ideological direction with dinky, oversimplified games won’t work very well. For a game (of the city builder genre) to work well, it has to be engaging, pushing an artificial narrative whether it be environmental activism or woke nonsense it is easy to detect and really rubs gamers the wrong way
What will likely work is fear mongering. Fear is the most powerful tool in controlling populations.
And did SA learn from it?
…Magic 8 Ball says…(Signs point to NO)
Did they build Desalination Plants to create fresh water from sea water to fill the reservoirs?
…Doesn’t ring any bells.
Did they build huge offshore wind farms to supply “Free Energy” to run those plants?
…of course not, wind energy is some of the costliest generation choices available (only the fuel source is free). That would really make the water unaffordable.
Did they build Nuclear to provide abundant affordable energy to run those nonexistent plants?
…Nope, Big Green won’t allow it.
Big Green wants to solve the water and energy problems by allowing for Fewer People in the world. It’s the ONLY way their schemes work.
Grand windmill auto?
It might work with a few…
Bonus points for crashing Gas Stations or Oil Wells and extra lives for avoiding wind turbines
Points subtracted for killing bats and birds?
Perhaps there’ll be bonus points for tarrying and feathering heretics
Sleep well kids..
I’ll bet that billboard company caught hell for allowing that one.
Everyone knows about climate change. The CO2 emissions trapping extra heat in the atmosphere idea is taught in schools and in all media.
Computer games will not add anything new.
So all this story adds is that someone has found a way to get paid for making a computer game. As media endeavours are usually risky, this was a clever thing to do.
No-one will choose to play this. It will be put in schools so as teachers can catch up with their marking and online businesses.
But it will have no impact on anyone’s opinions. Everyone knows. Everyone has made up their minds.
Almost no-one is willing to give up the benefits of cheap energy.
I think the idea is to reinforce the message
If a video game features a transition from “arid desert” to lush vegetation” in some normal time frame, there will be the necessity of building dams and water delivery systems, or other alternative water source and delivery systems, and keeping them functioning. Amazing how often “corruption” is mentioned in cultural failures.
New Game: Show you have not a gamer without saying you are not a gamer.
At light-speed, and with eye-massaging flushes of emerald green and azure blue, the environment transforms into lush vegetation.
Well Done. We have a winner!
It’s not light-speed. It’s 60FPS.
The author also clearly shows they have never played any of the other games they have referenced. The Civ series has ALWAYS been pro environment. Civ 2 (from memory) even had nuclear power stations melting down randomly cause Nuclear Power Bad. Recycling centres were almost compulsory builds. If you claim that the Civ franchise didn’t have one hand on the Green then you clearly have never played them.
I had a look at at this on Steam. It offers nothing. The in game currency seems to be rainbows and unicorn farts. The game wants you to build wind turbines and they… turn brown tiles into green tiles… cause… of course they do.
Later in the games there seems to be some ‘buildings’ that are basically seem to be magic clean up machines. This is Sci Fi, not environmental. It is not teaching players that brown can be changed to green by just doing the right thing, it is teaching them that ‘someone else’ needs to drop everything and invent a solution and their role in society is to skip school and glare at adults.
This game will disappear into the pile, most probably buried under the pile of Vampire Survivors clones.
I had a product that I was trying to develop; I called it Fecal Green! It was a paint that gives all solid human waste products a pleasing green color! I was planning on adding some odor neutralizer to it as well, but the enviro-wackos have apparently beaten me to it!
They apparently have some way of turning everything Green, and their $#it don’t stink!
Now don’t go maligning Vampire Survivor Clone Games.
Civ VI has done away with that nonsense, mostly.
No more “global warming has struck near…”. Nuke plants don’t have accidents, etc. But, in their famous quotes after gaining a technology, they have one from Joe Romm. Paraphrasing: “I’m all for harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, from 93 million miles away.” Obviously referring to solar panels. Other than that, there isn’t much proselytizing, though they still take jabs at republicans.
Cover all the bases…
“Guardian: Can video games change people’s minds about the climate crisis”?
“Guardian: Can board games teach us about the climate crisis? Game creators say yes”
But shirley all the climate models are video games which have changed, or certainly influenced, the so-called minds of nearly all of the folk who call themselves “Climate Scientists”, so for once the Guardian might be right.
Surely you’ll want us to pass this info on to Surly Shirley ??
For decades, concerns that violence and other anti-social aspects portrayed in video games would translate to real life behavior has been routinely dismissed by the establishment. Now it’s being argued that video games can and should be used to influence behavior?
Strange. They blame gas stoves for a rise childhood asthma and allergies even though gas stoves have been around for many decades. Indoor gas lighting used to be the norm.
Have they looked at the rise of childhood asthma and allergies and compared it the rise of video games?
Now they want video games to help save the planet?
Design video games that tell the truth. Make it fun to arrest the corrupt managers and politicians and the thieves who steal the pipes for scrap. Get bonus points for building reservoirs and water treatment plants. Don’t forget the need for flood management as well as drought management.
Use games to educate people in what really works, while making it fun.
With some minor modifications, the Halo franchise would be perfect! And you’d have lots of methods for dealing with the corrupt managers, politicians and “climate” scientists!
The young being hedonistic — YOLO — drugs — depression — is a result of believing they won’t live to old age. Have sex with anyone — it doesn’t matter — but don’t have kids since their life would be short and joyless as the world burns.
“Can video games change people’s minds about the climate crisis?
A new wave of game makers are attempting to influence a generation of environmentally conscious players. Will it work, and is it enough?”
Honesty would require admitting that such a statement means they are no longer a newspaper but simply a propaganda outlet.
A better option might be to, y’know, provide some evidence that there actually is a climate crisis.
It might make it easier to explain that the entire climate crisis is a video game.
Catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is a lie. Having someone else spread the lie will not help.