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Serious games and climate change


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Copy of my contribution to the Vienna workshop on Climate Change

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Serious games and climate change

  1. 1. Serious Games and Climate ChangeDavid Wortley FRSADe Montfort University, Immersive Technology Strategies andImaginaryIntroduction and BackgroundSerious Games is relatively recent concept which originated from the useof video games technology for non-entertainment purposes. The seriousgames application which is most credited for the coining of the phrase isthe game America’s Army which was originally commissioned by theAmerican Military as a tool for stimulating the recruitment of youngpeople into the US Army.Americas Army Web SiteThe logic behind the massive budget allocated to this project was thatvideo games are highly effective in engaging players and influencing 1
  2. 2. attitudes and behaviours, especially amongst the target group. WhatAmericas Army achieved was to bring about the realisation that thesetechnologies could also be used effectively for training and simulation andhence the term Serious Games was born.The early Serious Games focused on areas where the cost-benefit ratio ofgames methodologies was most easily justified and understood, namely inareas of high training costs and/or risks and/or practicality. These tended tobe in the military, medical and corporate training areas.Trusim’s Dying Dave SimulationOne of the pioneers of serious games technologies is UK based Trusim, theserious games arm of the world’s largest independent video gamesdeveloper, Blitz Games. They brought their experience of developinghighly realistic animations linked to real-world data to be able to simulate arange of medical conditions for Doctor and Paramedic training.One of the major barriers to the use of these technologies for addressingclimate change issues was the high cost of games development which, inthe case of serious games, is amplified because of the need to useexperienced subject matter experts as part of the games development team. 2
  3. 3. Successful entertainment games can use budgets that run into millions ofdollars and the production values are similar to those of Hollywood moviesand are therefore beyond the scope of application areas like climate and theenvironment.Serious Games for Climate and the EnvironmentThe games industry in general has been a massive driver for technologicalinnovation as consumers demanded ever more realistic simulations andmore intuitive interfaces. The net result of these drivers is that there hasbeen a significant improvement in games development and presentationtools across multiple technology platforms, including the latest generationof mobile phones and tablets like the iPad where the size of the marketenables millions of games to be sold at very low prices. This has alsoextended to browser based games, social network games and virtual worldapplications which link real-world environmental data to 3D visualisationsin virtual world environments such as Second Life.Daden’s Datascape Virtual Control Room showing environmental dataSome highly succesful consumer serious games have been development for 3
  4. 4. climate change issues. Red Redemption, a UK based games developer,created the Climate Challenge game in which players had to makedecisions on global investment in environmental technology. This gamehas been played by over 1 million people since its launch. Its aim was todevelop a better understanding of climate change issues amongst thegeneral public leading, hopefully, to positive changes in citizen behaviour.Floodsim Web Game by PlaygenAnother example of a highly cost effective climate change game wasFloodsim developed by UK company Playgen who specialise in socialbenefit serious games. The game was jointly funded with a modest budgetby the UK Govt and an Insurance Company and attracted 100,000 playerswithin 6 weeks of its launch.Floodsim was a role playing game in which players made decisions onGovt spending for flood prevention measures in different regions of theUK based on information about economic value, population density anddifferent types of measures. The results of the player decisions are shownas positive newspaper headlines or flooded cities. Apart from improvingawareness of the complexities of flood prevention, the game also collectedvaluable information about the general public’s perception and views onflood prevention. 4
  5. 5. The Future of Serious Games for Climate and the EnvironmentWith the tools currently available for games development across multipleplatforms, I foresee 3 major trends in serious games applications in thearea. 1. Links to personalised real-world data such as smart meters – there is likely to be increased use of games methodologies to real-world data from devices such as consumer smart meters to provide motivation and incentive for better energy use. 2. Social network games using platforms like Facebook and MySpace will build communities of interest and collaboration on climate change issues 3. Mobile phone and tablets using GPS and wireless technologies will inceasingly be used both for serious games around the climate and the environment and for the collection of environmental data to use in 3D visualisations of real-world environmental situations.In conclusion, serious games are destined to play an increasing role ininfluencing climate related attitudes and behaviours amongst the generalpublic as well as providing climate change professionals with better toolsfor analysis and communication.David Wortley FRSAImmersive Technology StrategiesResearch FellowDe Montfort UniversityEmail: david@davidwortley.comMobile: +447896659695 5