The idea goes like this: Imagine there were giant, digital 'Realitrees' in the world's major cities. Say, New York and London, for starters. It's a CGI-rendered tree (oak, maybe?) that withers or flourishes to reflect the approximate health of both the local environment and the global climate system (they're intertwined, obvs). So, for instance, when news breaks that 2010 saw record-breaking global emissions, the tree might lose a branch. News of increased pollution or climate denial from major industries will also suck the sap out of the tree.
However, to prevent the tree from keeling over dead in like, four hours, people can actively work to keep the tree alive too: by reporting in on how they're fighting climate change in their communities, they can help the tree grow. It's designed to be a massive, interactive game that involves and international audience: each Realitree would be prominently displayed in a public, high-traffic area, like Times Square, where everyone could note the status of symbol in realtime.
Of course, the Realitree is still just a game concept; it was one of the finalists chosen by Al Gore during PSFK's 'Gaming for Good' salon last Friday. The event was a result of a collaboration between Gore's Climate Reality Project and the trendsetting design site PSFK. Designers were asked to submit concepts for games that could be used to impact social behavior for the better, towards the explicit end of addressing the climate crisis.
Realitree, the brainchild of Stark Design, was perhaps the most ambitious gaming concept unveiled at the event, and it drew praise from the former vice president.
"I thought it was a very interesting idea," Gore said, though he noted that it would be "very important" to run the display, sure to be an energy hog, on renewable power.
The game's designers envision Realitrees eventually taking root in 300 cities around the world, and developing an app that would allow players to easily interface with the program.
Though the dramatic, slowly dying tree imagery may toe the hippie line a bit too closely, this is generally a great idea. A prominent, interactive indicator that reflects global and local climate health could be a powerful tool indeed, especially if it could effectively entice communal participation.