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How video games are addressing climate change

The conversation about climate change is one of the most important talking points in the world. Can video games further the discussion?

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video games and climate change

The conversation about climate change is one of the most important talking points in the world.

While some older minds might be disengaged from the discussion or believe that there is nothing that can be done, many young people are certainly passionate about our planet and its well-being. This certainly isn’t by accident.

These days celebrities, films, and commercials are constantly discussing climate change, along with possible solutions to fix the issues that currently plague the Earth. It is a good way to educate young people and keep them in the discussion. It stands to reason that video games should also join the mix.

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Video games are more popular now than ever before, so they create the perfect platform to entertain and inform about these important issues. Let’s look at the state of climate change and how video games are joining the discussion.

The threat of climate change

Although there will always be a debate about the severity of climate change, there can be no dispute that the planet is changing – and not for the better. The term “climate change” refers to any changes in the environment that inspire new weather patterns or phenomena that are new and dangerous for the planet. There is certainly evidence that instances of climate change are occurring on a global scale.

Last year, we had the fourth warmest year on record, with the Earth’s temperature becoming 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average temperatures that were recorded in the 19th century. As the temperatures heat up, animals die off on land and in our oceans, which threatens our food security. In oceans near Western Africa, South America, and several Asian countries, many fish are dying due to the rising temperatures, a particularly troubling fact when you consider that fish make up 27% of dietary protein in these countries.

When food quantities dwindle, it creates another problem. In addition to having less to eat, this issue can drive up the price of food, even in developed countries like America, making the essentials harder to obtain. This can create a domino effect across the world.

Then there are environmental impacts. With rising temperatures comes an increase of droughts and flooding, not to mention health issues such as heat stroke and dehydration. Climate change could result in an increase in natural disasters which puts a strain on public health and general well-being. To quell these troubling scenarios, action is needed.

Experts and companies look for solutions

The plight of our world has not been ignored. Around the globe, public health officials are doing their part to spread information and look for solutions. These officials are urging their governments to put aside funds for disaster relief, as well as planning to increase services and equipment needed to help those suffering from disease and other public health dangers that arise from climate change.

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Many businesses are also getting in on the action and doing their part to limit the damaging factors that they often contribute to the environment. Vehicle manufacturers Subaru and Honda are making improvements in their packaging by reusing styrofoam while also decreasing their landfill waste. British retailer Marks and Spencer saved $227 million in waste and cut its carbon emissions by 23% with their new initiatives.

What ties all of these businesses and individuals together is the will to do their part and show the world that everyone can join in fighting climate change. If these companies can make such an impact, then why not cast a wider net, into entertainment and media? Video games are the perfect medium for this message, and game developers have begun to take notice.

A few Angry Birds

Back in 2015, a few video games turned their attention to addressing climate change. One of the first was an add-on for the extremely popular game Angry Birds. It was the Champions for Earth promotion, which was released during the Global Citizens festivities on Earth Day.

During the event, gamers played along with celebrities in classic Angry Birds gameplay to get their name on top of the leaderboard. During the event, the players learned about climate change though materials created by NASA, Yale, and the White House. All of the proceeds went towards the Canopy Project which is famous for its goal of planting a billion trees before the year 2020. This is exactly the type of event that turns heads and spreads a positive message about the importance of the environment.

Later in 2015, Earth Primer was released. In this game/book hybrid, players learn about the geological forces that both shape and change our planet. Earth Primer provides users with interactive scenarios that teach how the Earth works and allows gamers to change the weather and witness how extreme changes impact the planet. During one of the most attention-grabbing scenarios, you can raise the outside temperature by only a couple of degrees; as a result a glacier is eradicated. These visual displays can be a powerful eye-opener.

Current games continue the trend

Over the years, games with a focus on climate change continue to make waves. Two years ago, the popular city-building game Cities: Skylines created an add-on in the form of the Green Cities expansion. The package included 350 climate-friendly additions, including electric vehicles, organic stores, and eco-friendly buildings that could be placed across the city. There were also new scenarios added, including the ability to limit pollution in growing urban areas.

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A couple of more recent games really try to drive home the effects of climate change and raise awareness. One such game is Eco, and it has players from around the world engaging in a society simulator where players use resources from nature to build shelters and improve their lives. The difference in this game is that, just like with the real environment, every action has a reaction.

So when players cut down trees in forests to make shelters, the wildlife starts to die off. When the air is polluted, the temperatures rise, and the players begin to perish. To fight off these natural behaviours, the players must work together to share resources and improve the lives of the collective.

Just last year, a modder added the effects of climate change to the immensely popular sandbox game, Minecraft. Before the change, cutting down trees and spreading lava into forests was par for the course. With this modification, those actions have disastrous effects, including releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and an increase in forest fires. To counteract these effects, players can plant trees and see the negative effects decrease. It may be virtual, but the mod provides a good message for youngsters about how these activities are impacting the Earth.

To protect the planet for future generations, we need to further global climate education to keep our planet healthy, by making smart choices and thinking about the collective needs of humanity. This is especially important for younger generations, and video games may be the ideal way to spread the message.

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Frankie Wallace is a freelance blogger from the northwest and a recent graduate from the University of Montana. Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho and writes for a variety of pop culture websites.