Video games have become a part of audiovisual culture. With their increasingly sophisticated graphics and technology, they have shown themselves to be a narrative tool capable of raising awareness and inspiring us to transform our own reality.
Similar to films, video games use a screen and characters to tell stories. However, the world of video games has the advantage of being interactive. Players make decisions that have consequences for the situations in which they are involved. If you had a chance to save the world, would you do it?
Video games that educate about the environment
Video games are a communications channel with the potential to raise awareness about climate change. There are already games on the market today that make the player choose between industrial development and the welfare of the planet, as well as realistic simulators of sustainable urban management.
This is the case for games as famous as Final Fantasy VII, which has a clear ecological intention, showing a world in which the vital energy of the planet itself becomes the ultimate resource for exploitation. Other games, such as Grow Home, the focus is not so much on nature's depletion, but on what an insignificant being, like the small clumsy robot it stars, can do to preserve natural resources.
Green conscientiousness in video games has even reached the Sims 4 with Eco Lifestyle, which presents the ever-changing world of Evergreen Harbor. The characters can take part in activities which care for the environment, produce their own electricity from renewable energy, grow their food at home and even produce their own compost.
Among the games that address the consequences of global warming, the most notable is Civilization VI. This is a turn-based strategy game with a board game feel where players choose from a broad cast of historical leaders such as Philip II, Frederick Barbarossa or Saladin, with the aim of guiding their people from the early cradle of civilisation to the stars.
With the passing of the centuries and technological development, industrialised civilisations see an increase in a global climate change meter which takes into account rising temperature and the melting of the polar ice caps, thus failing to confront an energy transition will lead to severe natural disasters.
A step further in raising awareness about the importance of sustainability
Through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), we have come to realise the potential of this sector in raising awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals among younger generations. The video game industry has 250 million active users. These figures have given rise to the 'Playing for the Planet Alliance' between UNEP and the largest companies in this sector.
Developers and leading video game manufacturers have committed to integrating eco-friendly messages for players. Now, in addition to being a source of entertainment, they will also be a means to raise awareness about issues ranging from climate change, reforestation and the restoration of nature, to education on renewable energies. The various projects can be found on the Green Game Jam page.
Among the different proposals, we can highlight MAG Interactive, which will hold thematic awareness-raising and tree-planting events in its WordBrain and WordBrain2 games. Space Ape, another of the largest companies in the industry, will educate players about the benefits of renewable energy through its game Transformers: Earth Wars. The heads of the Angry Birds game will organise on-platform events around the topic of reforestation and share links with players where they can learn more about reforestation efforts and how they can contribute. The melting of the ice caps is being addressed by Future Games of London in a new Hungry Shark World update called Arctic Extinction.
These initiatives, which show the reality around us within a framework of fiction, raise awareness by showing the effects of the climate crisis and providing information on the efforts that we still have time to make in order to curb them. Video games can undoubtedly be a great ally in inspiring new generations to save the planet.