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Global Warming Educational Games

The Houston Advanced Research Center posted the first description and analysis of global warming games on Wikipedia in 2007. The author of the materials was HARC Summer Scholar A.J. Espinosa. We provide the following materials which have subsequently be edited by numerous additional authors as an introduction to the topic of educational gaming for learning about climate change and global warming. We highly recommend revisiting Wikipedia regularly for updates on educational games on related to climate change and other environmental topics.

Global warming games, also sometimes referred to as 'climate games' or 'climate change games,' belong to a genre of games that are usually classified as serious games. As serious games, they attempt to simulate and explore real life issues to educate players through an interactive experience. The issues particular to global warming games are usually energy efficiency and the implementation of green technology as ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus counteract global warming. Global warming games include more traditional board games, computer and video games, as well as other varieties.

The primary objectives of global warming games are twofold:

  1. To develop the player's familiarity and knowledge of the issue of global warming and related issues
  2. To make the player aware of the challenges and obstacles that are faced when addressing global warming
  3. Occasionally, the games encourage players to develop ideas and solutions to   global warming

The first objective is universal to global warming games. The issues surrounding global warming commonly included are CO2 emissions and the emission of other greenhouse gases, the melting of the polar ice caps, global sea-level rise, natural disasters and massive changes to lifestyles caused by global warming. Games that do not go beyond the objective of knowledge and familiarity tend to be designed for younger audiences. Games designed for young children often only have the goal to engage the children enough to excite their attention to focus on these basic concepts.

The second objective is integrated into games in a variety of ways. Sometimes demonstrating the challenges of confronting global warming are put directly into the style of gameplay, e.g. to demonstrate the difficulty of international cooperation, players are made to represent different countries and are required to negotiate to fulfill game objectives. Other times, the game includes the challenges as a part of the mechanics, e.g. building 'green factories' is more expensive than building 'black factories.'

The final objective is shared by the most interactive and engaging global warming games. Developing solutions to global warming includes two major types of response: mitigation of emissions and global warming's effects, and adaptation to live sustainably in a new climate. Typically players are given a variety of different options so that they may come up with a number of different creative solutions. Sometimes players are even allowed freedom to create their own unique options to integrate into their strategy.

Prominent Examples


LogiCity is an interactive Flash-based virtual-reality based computer game, produced by Logicom and The National Energy Foundation, an English charity. The game is set in a 3D virtual city with five main activities where players are set the task of reducing the carbon footprint of an average resident. The activities comprise:

  • a race against time around a virtual reality office switching off equipment left on by careless users;
  • finding and selecting energy efficiency and renewable energy options in a home, but with a strictly limited budget;
  • answering a quiz about features they have to find in a low energy building;
  • taking part in a role playing game to select the best travel options for three generations of a family; and
  • choosing a holiday from a virtual travel agents - but with the risk that climate change may have led to unexpected changes at the destination.

As players work their way through the game they attempt to cut their carbon footprint from a typical English figure of 5.5 tonnes to a level of 2.0 tonnes. At the end of the game they are taken forward to 2066 to see if they have done enough to save England from the worst problems associated with global climate change[1]. The game's conclusion and focus on 2066 is designed to bring home to players the reality of the changes they may face in their lifetime.[2]

The game is part of Defra’s (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Climate Challenge programme[3] to increase public awareness of Climate Change across the country. The National Energy Foundation, Logicom and British Gas also provided support to the game's development. LogiCity is designed to be used both by individuals and in an educational context. It is stated to be suitable for most children from the ages of 10 or 11 upward; although the main target group is young adults aged 16-26.[4]

The game can either be played online or distributed across a network from a CD-ROM. There are no licensing implications as it has been publicly funded, although all PCs being used for the game do need to meet certain technical requirements (notably being PCs not Macs, and using Internet Explorer as a browser), and may require additional software plug-ins to be downloaded (a VRML viewer and a recent version of Flash player).

There has been some criticism that the game is only really applicable to England, due to limitations imposed by its funders, so that it is unlikely to appeal widely in North America. The look and feel of the game concentrates on a near photo-realism for buildings, but the player is disembodied and lacks an avatar. Firefox users are unable to run the game unless they switch to Internet Explorer, and some users have commented that download times for each module can be up to a minute, although this may be overcome by using the CD-ROM implementation.

Stabilization Wedge Game

Main article: Stabilization Wedge Game

The Stabilization Wedge Game, or what is commonly referred to as simply the 'Wedge Game', is a serious game produced by Princeton University's Carbon Mitigation Initiative. The goal of the game creators, Stephen Pacala and Robert H. Socolow, is to demonstrate through this game that global warming is a problem which can be solved by implementing today's technologies to reduce CO2 emissions.[5] The object of the game is to keep the next fifty years of CO2 emissions flat, using seven wedges from a variety of different strategies which fit into the stabilization triangle.

Climate Challenge

Main article: Climate Challenge

Climate Challenge is a Flash-based simulation game produced by the BBC and developed by Red Redemption. Players manage the economy and resources of the 'European Nations' as its president, while reducing emissions of CO2 to combat climate change and managing crises. Climate Challenge is an environmental serious game, designed to give players an understanding of the science behind climate change, as well as the options available to policy makers and the difficulties in their implementation.[6]


Main article: V GAS

V GAS is a 3D serious game in which players explore and live in a house that is built to mirror their own. Players begin the game by building a profile including variables such as water use and transportation behaviors, heating and cooling practices, food purchases, and electrical appliance usage. Once the profile has been built, the player can begin the simulation which introduces different scenarios ranging from heat waves to mad cow disease. The player adjusts their lifestyle according to how they would react to these events in real life. All the while, the players' decisions are being measured and recorded, and their overall contribution to N2O, CO2, and CH4 to the atmosphere is measured.

Keep Cool

Main article: Keep Cool (board game)

Keep Cool is a board game created by Klaus Eisenack and Gerhard Petschel-Held of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and published by the German company Spieltrieb in November 2004. The game can be classified as both a serious game and a global warming game. In Keep Cool, up to six players representing the world's countries compete to balance their own economic interests and the world's climate in a game of negotiation. The goal of the game as stated by the authors is to "promote the general knowledge on climate change and the understanding of difficulties and obstacles, and "to make it available for a board game and still retain the major elements and processes."[7]

Winds of Change

The European Climate Forum and Munich Re have launched a climate game called Winds of Change, which is a board game for 2-4 persons. The game illustrates the climate challenge in a playful way and it can be used in team learning, schools, focus groups, etc. It includes several features, which are hotly debated in climate policy-making. These include among others: investments in R&D, technological learning and innovation, de-carbonizing the economy, ocean uptake of CO2, the 2 degrees limit, and insurance against extreme weather events.

Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge

The Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge is a collaborative effort between Microsoft and Games for Change (G4C), a subgroup of the Serious Games Initiative. The challenge is a worldwide competition to develop a global warming game with Microsoft's XNA Game Studio Express software. Winners will be awarded scholarships from Games for Change and Microsoft, and the winning games will have the possibility of being available for download on the Xbox LIVE Arcade service. The Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge has been cast by Microsoft as a "socially-minded" initiative, joining the larger serious games movement.[8] Suzanne Seggerman, a co-founder of Games for Change, shared these comments in a radio interview:


  1. See interview with Dr Majid Al-Kader, New Scientist video on YouTube"Climate Change in a Virtual World". New Scientist. Retrieved on 2008-01-29.
  2. "LogiCity: Will You Survive?". National Energy Foundation. Retrieved on 2008-01-15.
  3. "Climate Challenge Project". DEFRA. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
  4. Simonite, Tom (2007-11-15). "Climate change in a virtual world". New Scientist. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
  5. Pacala and Socolow, Stephen and Robert (2004-08-13). "Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies". Science. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  6. "Climate Challenge". BBC. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  7. Eisenack, Klaus; Petschel-Held, Gerhard. "The Authors: Science and Games". Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
  8. "Xbox 360 Games for Change Challenge". Microsoft (2007-06-11). Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  9. Gellerman, Bruce (2007-06-22). "Global Warming Games". Living on Earth. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
Source: Wikipedia and Houston Advanced Research Center
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