Today’s Solutions: December 03, 2021

The continued presence of human beings on this planet is uncertain thanks to generations of unsustainable and exploitative use of natural resources. We can read about what the future may hold for us if we fail to mitigate our impact on our environment, but it may be difficult to understand the gravity of a situation that is so abstract.

Enter Survive the Century, an online game created by Sam Beckbessinger, Simon Nicholson, and Christopher Trisos, along with a team of illustrators, writers, and scientists. It was also made with a series of collaborations including the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SEYSNC) of the University of Maryland.

The game gives players the power to determine how the world’s future plays out. It’s set in the year 2050 when the uber-rich continue to exploit people and resources for personal gain, and the climate crisis has wreaked further havoc on natural habitats, displacing millions of people.

But Survive the Century gives players the important role of the world’s most popular newspaper, meaning that they have the power to influence what happens in the decades to come. As a player, you can decide to make choices that push us over the edge and into environmental destruction, or you can make sure that we get on the path towards a sustainable and equitable world.

This branching narrative game is classified as a “cli-fi,” a new subgenre of fiction that deals with the topic of climate change and the future. Using simple storytelling, the game was created with the intention of galvanizing those who are apathetic and nihilistic about the future and encouraging people to engage in inventive solutions to the many problems that we face as a global community.

For instance, you can strive for a future that condemns oil companies with the crime of “ecocide,” and where large areas of the planet are rewilded and endangered species thrive.

The game prompts players to seriously contemplate challenging questions about how we can reach a balance between nature and ourselves. Players see a barometer that tracks three key metrics: global temperatures, conflict, and economy. These measures help players decide what their next move should be, which hopefully triggers real critical reflection on the next moves we should be making in real life.

This is one of many video games that urge people to reflect on climate change and conservation science. Research has demonstrated that video games are an effective way to teach these topics to a wide audience of diverse groups. This will hopefully translate to real-life changes in behavior, which the game further encourages in its final chapter by suggesting that players join a local climate justice group.

The game is a not-for-profit project supported by Climate Interactive, SESYNC and the FLAIR Fellowship Programme, with funding from the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

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