In recent years, global warming and climate change have increasingly become a hot topic for politicians and consumers alike. Perhaps more surprisingly, they’ve also become a source of inspiration for mobile game developers.
As global temperatures continue to rise, consumers are eager to understand how they can individually engage in sustainable practices to help combat climate change. Indie developers are now using tech for good by creating mobile games that help to educate players and explore various environmental themes such as climate change.
More importantly, the user game experience is also encouraging players to engage in more sustainable practices in real life.
Education through Mobile Gaming
Rather than forcing the conversation onto people, developers are creating games that educate players organically through fun and entertaining gameplay. While some developers have indirectly touched on the issue of climate change through a subtle hint in a game’s background or story, there are a number of games that choose to focus solely on the topic for their core game concept.
Great examples of this can be seen in indie mobile games such as Eco Birds, Habitat the Game and Doomsday Vault. Eco Birds requires players to navigate their bird through various landscapes, dropping eggs on the heads of villains seen to be polluting the environment. While the core mechanic is more fun than educational, various backgrounds including bare forests & oil rig dotted oceans are a nod to the harrowing effects of climate change currently ravaging the planet.
Habitat The Game by Elevator Entertainment features a more educational theme, as it focuses on the current issues facing endangered animals in the world. Players take care of an endangered polar bear and complete events in the game and in real-life to earn rewards and keep their bear healthy and alive.
While Habitat the Game focuses on the now, Doomsday Vault transports players to a post-climate collapse world. Available on Apple Arcade, Doomsday requires players to navigate various desolate landscapes to find and save remaining plant-life (all the while avoiding AI robots left behind to guard corporate interests!).
Inspiring players to act to sustainably
When including environmental themes in mobile games, one of the aims is to educate players and get them to start the conversation with their peers. So from a game to a conversation, the question now remains as to how players can create positive steps in real-life from mobile gaming to improving climate change.
In a recent UN Environment Programme report, the committee outlined the positive effects that gaming had in regards to improved sustainable changes in individuals. According to the report, the “creativity and problem-solving ethos of the gaming industry constitutes an untapped resource for encouraging engagement in environmental issues.” The report went on to includer seven recommendations that gaming developers can utilise to facilitate sustainable action by players in real life.
The seven recommendations recommended that developers:
1. Include a ‘green nudge’ in every game
A ‘green nudge’ in this context refers to creating in-game features that reward players for engaging in green activity. Examples include a reminder to switch off or reset console defaults that consume less power and points for planting trees instead of destroying them (Fortnite being a great example here). Essentially rewarding the players to encourage environmentally friendly actions within games to solidify this in their minds for real life situations.
2. Create an annual impact season
Perhaps a larger scaled recommendation, this recommendation suggests creating a themed month or period focused on an environmental impact, such as climate change, within the gaming community. For example, a week on the Appstore where only environmentally educational or relevant games are promoted and encouraged. This would result in high exposure to a particular environmental issue at the time, as well as creating indirect advertising for non-for-profit charities working in real life to fight these issues.
3. Pledge for the planet
The report outlines the gaming industry's huge revenue earnings year after year, and not surprisingly, the potential for large scale fundraisers to support critical environmental issues. Fundraising efforts are encouraged and can be offered through donating profits made through in-app purchases, donations, pro-bono media space and more.
4. Cut e-waste and go 100% clean
This recommendation is based on the idea of encouraging developers to create more narratives or mechanics in games that conceptualise the challenge of reducing waste and going 100% clean. While the report states that the gaming industry itself can reduce e-waste and its carbon footprint through a circular-economy, by creating a challenge to go 100% clean in a game, will help to encourage players to apply the challenge into real life.
5. Fiscal incentives for ‘serious’ sustainability games
6. Team up, reward, and make it famous
Speaking about the gaming industry as a whole, this recommendation encourages studios and developers in the industry to work together in promoting more sustainable games in the industry. Examples of this include studio and game collaborations, rewarding players in the industry (ie. Best Environmental Game of the Year) and having either prominent gaming celebrities or in-game characters advocating for environmental issues.
7. Help parents to engage with their children around gaming
By incorporating environmental themes into everyday games that players often turn to for entertainment, it starts the conversation about serious environmental issues that often get overlooked. Since the mobile gaming industry has an immensely large global gaming community (over 1.36 billion users to be exact), developers have the ability to promote awareness of serious environmental issues to this audience, helping to educate the public and encourage positive steps forward in the long battle ahead to combat climate change.