'The Climate Trail', a finalist in PSFK's 'Gaming for Good' contest, is a quirky game concept that combines the classic Oregon Trail gameplay template with a quest to expose big polluters' climate change denial. Its retro, text-based gameplay seeks to educate and engage players on the role industrial polluters play in causing global warming.
Players begin the game as the mayor of a small town, and are confronted with decisions about energy, ecology and pollution. They have to decide whether to approve coal plants or windfarms, whether to slash forests for agriculture or keep them intact.
The goal, of course, is to maintain a healthy, sustainable community (and eventually, nation) along with a stable climate. So, as power companies bombard them with requests to set up new coal plants, players must scrutinize the link between industry and climate change. This, ideally, would encourage players do the same in real life--and help them better understand the explicit interest corporations have in denying climate change.
Given the premise, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the game, designed by Zemoga, ended up as a finalist in the 'Gaming for Good' contest, a collaboration between by Al Gore's Climate Reality Project and design trendspotters PSFK. The contest asked designers to submit ideas for games that could be used to improve social behavior in ways that would help address the climate crisis. Games like 'Realitree', which I discussed earlier today.
At the Gaming for Good salon last Friday, which featured Al Gore as a panelist, the former vice president announced 'Climate Trail' to be one of his favorites of the ten or so presented.
And I concur: of the games that made the shortlist, this was probably my favorite. I can easily picture the game as an iPhone app, something to idly tap away at on the subway. And the emphasis on climate denial isn't overly heavy; players will instead focus on the gameplay, and building their towns into nations. But it's the Oregon Trail hook that really sells it: the target demographic (young folks) are suckers for nostalgic, retro throwbacks to the video game culture of their not-so-distant past. That aesthetic, if paired with engaging gameplay, could easily override any aura of 'educational gaming' that could act as a deterrent.
I, for one, would download it, and expose those climate denying bastards. Hopefully without dying of diphtheria or losing any grain in a river crossing.