Communicating the Complexities of Climate Change via Gameplay

Researchers: David Reynolds (PI, Paleoclimate Science, University of Arizona, formerly Cardiff University), Taslima Begum (Design, Cardiff Metropolitan University), Anouschka Foltz (Psycholinguistics, Bangor University), Sarah Gerson (Psychology, Cardiff University), Sarah Pogoda (German Studies, Bangor University), Sean Walton (Computer Science, Swansea University) & Claire Williams (Psychology, Swansea University)


Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. However, the scientifically and geopolitically complex nature of the issue often hinders the implementation of individual and societal changes that are needed to mitigate the future impacts of climate change. This project aims to investigate novel approaches for communicating the complex nature of climate change science through the application of interactive games.

An online competition (game jam) was held for computer games developers from around the world to develop prototype interactive games that would accurately communicate the science behind our current understanding of climate change. To aid in the development of scientifically accurate games a science pack based on the latest scientific literature was provided to each team and an online discussion forum facilitated the direct communication between climate scientists and the developers. The scientific accuracy of each game was judged by a team of internationally renowned climate scientists and science communicators, while the playability and enjoyability of each game was judged by players from around the world.

Fig 1: A screenshot of the 12 prototype games entered into the game jam.

In total 12 games were submitted to the game jam. The submitted games focused on array of issues associated with climate change, ranging from climate feedback loops to global scale geopolitics. The games also implemented a range of game play and communications mechanisms. The diverse array of games submitted provides a broad test bed to evaluate the effectiveness of different communications and game play mechanisms for communicating climate science.

The effectiveness of these games for communicating the complexity of climate science will be evaluated throughout 2019 using focus groups. Following these analyses, we propose to apply the findings through the development of a new game that implements the most effective communications and game play mechanisms for communicating the complexity of climate science.

This project has seen broad interest from the general public, media and scientific journals, gaining publicity through articles in Wired Magazine and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science as well as being presented at the Swansea Fringe Games Day event.

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