Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Climate change games as tools for education and engagement

Abstract

Scientists, educators and policymakers continue to face challenges when it comes to finding effective strategies to engage the public on climate change. We argue that games on the subject of climate change are well-suited to address these challenges because they can serve as effective tools for education and engagement. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the development of such games, many featuring innovative designs that blur traditional boundaries (for example, those that involve social media, alternative reality games, or those that involve direct action upon the real world). Here, we present an overview of the types of climate change game currently available, the benefits and trade-offs of their use, and reasons why they hold such promise for education and engagement regarding climate change.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Clim'way.

CAP SCIENCES

Figure 2: Habitat.

ELEVATOR ENTERTAINMENT

Figure 3: EcoChains: Arctic Crisis.

JOGOLABS

References

  1. 1

    Stoutenborough, J. W., Liu, X. & Vedlitz, A. Trends in public attitudes toward climate change: The influence of the economy and Climategate on risk, information, and public policy. Risk Haz. Crisis Public Policy 5, 22–37 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Hamilton, L. C. Education, politics and opinions about climate change evidence for interaction effects. Climatic Change 104, 231–242 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    McCright, A. M. & Dunlap, R. E. The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public's views of global warming, 2001–2010. Sociol. Quart. 52, 155–194 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Liimatainen, A. in Encyclopedia of Corporate Social Responsibility 2606–2610 (Springer, 2013).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Bybee, R., McCrae, B. & Laurie, R. PISA 2006: An assessment of scientific literacy. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 46, 865–883 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Stage, E. K., Asturias, H., Cheuk, T., Daro, P A. & Hampton, S. B. Opportunities and challenges in next generation standards. Science 340, 276–277 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Osborne, J. & Dillon, J. Science Education in Europe: Critical Reflections Vol. 13 (The Nuffield Foundation, 2008).

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Tilbury, D., Stevenson, R. B., Fien, J. & Schreuder, D. (eds) Education and Sustainability: Responding to the Global Challenge (IUCN Commission on Education and Communication, 2002).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Reckien, D. & Eisenack, K. Climate change gaming on board and screen: A review. Simulat. Gaming 44, 253–271 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Squire, K. From content to context: Videogames as designed experience. Educ. Res. 35, 19–29 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Mendler de Suarez, J., Suarez, P. & Bachofen, C. (eds) Games for a New Climate: Experiencing the Complexity of Future Risks (Boston Univ., The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, 2012).

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Shaffer, D. W. D. Epistemic frames for epistemic games. Comput. Educ. 46, 223–234 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Gee, J. Good Video Games and Good Learning (Peter Lang, 2007).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Wiek, A. & Iwaniec, D. Quality criteria for visions and visioning in sustainability science. Sustain. Sci. 9, 497–512 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Squire, K. Video games in education. Int. J. Intell. Games & Simulation 2, 49–62 (2003).

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Salen, K. & Zimmerman, E. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (MIT Press, 2004).

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    McGonigal, J. Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (Penguin, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Fennewald, T. J. & Kievit-Kylar, B. Integrating climate change mechanics into a common pool resource game. Simulat. Gaming 44, 427–451 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Meadows, D. H. Thinking in Systems: A Primer (Chelsea Green, 2008).

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Reason, P. Education for ecology: Science, aesthetics, spirit, and ceremony. Manage. Learn. 38, 27–44 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Porter, T. & Cordoba, J. Three views of systems theories and their implications for sustainability education. J. Manage. Educ. 33, 323–347 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Warburton, K. Deep learning and education for sustainability. Int. J. Sustain. High. Educ. 4, 44–56 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Sterman, J. et al. World Climate: A role-play simulation of climate negotiations. Simulat. Gaming http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1046878113514935 (2014).

  24. 24

    Sterman, J. et al. Climate interactive: The C-ROADS climate policy model. Syst. Dynam. Rev. 28, 295–305 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Sterman, J. D. et al. Management flight simulators to support climate negotiations. Environ. Modell. Softw. 44, 122–135 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Abt, C. C. Serious Games. (University Press of America, 1987).

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Crookall, D. Serious games, debriefing, and simulation/gaming as discipline. Simulat. Gaming 41, 898–920 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Charsky, D. From edutainment to serious games: A change in the use of game characteristics. Games and Culture 5, 177–198 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Dickey, M. D. Engaging by design: How engagement strategies in popular computer and video games can inform instructional design. Educ. Tech. Res. 53, 67–83 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Coleman, J. S., Livingston, S. A., Fennessey, G. M., Edwards, K. J. & Kidder, S. J. The Hopkins games program: Conclusions from seven years of research. Educ. Res. 2, 3–7 (1973).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Vogel, J. J. et al. Computer gaming and interactive simulations for learning: A meta-analysis. J. Educ. Comput. Res. 34, 229–243 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Bellotti, F., Kapralos, B., Lee, K., Moreno-Ger, P. & Berta, R. Assessment in and of serious games: An overview. Adv. Hum. Comput. Inter. 2013, 136864 (2013).

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Connolly, T. M., Boyle, E. A., MacArthur, E., Hainey, T. & Boyle, J. M. A systematic literature review of empirical evidence on computer games and serious games. Comput. Educ. 59, 661–686 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34

    Wilson, K. A. et al. Relationships between game attributes and learning outcomes: Review and research proposals. Simulat. Gaming 40, 217–266 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Gosen, J. & Washbush, J. A review of scholarship on assessing experiential learning effectiveness. Simulat. Gaming 35, 270–293 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Mitchell, A. & Savill-Smith, C. The Use of Computer and Video Games for Learning: A Review of the Literature (Learning and Skills Development Agency, 2004).

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37

    Chin, J., Dukes, R. & Gamson, W. Assessment in simulation and gaming: A review of the last 40 years. Simulat. Gaming 40, 553–568 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38

    Gee, J. P. What Video Games have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy: Revised and Updated Edition (Macmillan, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39

    Ryan, R. M., Rigby, C. S. & Przybylski, A. The motivational pull of video games: A self-determination theory approach. Motiv. Emotion 30, 344–360 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40

    2014 Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry (Entertainment Software Association, 2014).

  41. 41

    State & County Quickfacts (United States Census Bureau, 2014); http://quickfacts.census.gov

  42. 42

    Mayo, M. J. Video games: A route to large-scale STEM education? Science 323, 79–82 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43

    Robinson, J. & Ausubel, J. H. A game framework for scenario generation for the CO2 issue. Simulat. Gaming 14, 317–344 (1983).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44

    Ulrich, M. in Proceedings of the 28th Annual International Conference of the International Simulation and Gaming Association (eds Geurts, J., Joldersma, C. & Roelofs, E.) 301–311 (Tilburg Univ. Press, 1997).

    Google Scholar 

  45. 45

    Eisenack, K. A climate change board game for interdisciplinary communication and education. Simulat. Gaming 44, 328–348 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46

    Clim'way (Cap-Sciences, 2008); http://climway.cap-sciences.net

  47. 47

    Thomas, S. Pervasive learning games: Explorations of hybrid educational gamescapes. Simulat. Gaming 37, 41–55 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48

    Magerkurth, C., Cheok, A. D., Mandryk, R. L. & Nilsen, T. Pervasive games: Bringing computer entertainment back to the real world. Comput. Entertain. 3, 4 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49

    Ross, J. Pervasive in CHI'11 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (eds Begole, B. & Kellogg, W.) 1085–1088 (Association for Computing Machinery, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  50. 50

    Xu, Y. et al. in Proceedings of the International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (eds El-Nasr, M. S., Consalvo, M. & Feiner, S.) 49–56 (Association for Computing Machinery, 2012).

    Google Scholar 

  51. 51

    Fullerton, T. & Duncombe, S. Direct Action Games: Games Meet the Real World [speech presented at the Games for Change Festival] (New York, 2010).

    Google Scholar 

  52. 52

    Gustafsson, A., Katzeff, C. & Bang, M. Evaluation of a pervasive game for domestic energy engagement among teenagers. Comput. Entertain. 7, 54 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. 53

    Habitat (Elevator Entertainment, 2013); http://www.habitatthegame.com

  54. 54

    Lee, J. J., Ceyhan, P., Jordan-Cooley, W. & Sung, W. Greenify: A real-world action game for climate change education. Simulat. Gaming 44, 349–365 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. 55

    Lee, J. J. et al. in CHI'13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (eds Mackay, W. E., Brewster, S. & Bødker, S.) 1497–1502 (Association for Computing Machinery, 2013).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  56. 56

    Pfirman, S. SMARTIC (PoLAR Projects, 2013); http://www.camelclimatechange.org/view/article/175297

    Google Scholar 

  57. 57

    Lee, J. J. & Pfirman, S. EcoChains: Arctic Crisis (PoLAR Projects, 2014); http://thepolarhub.org/project/ecochains-arctic-crisis

    Google Scholar 

  58. 58

    Roberts, I. Fate of the World (Red Redemption, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  59. 59

    Jones, N. Video game: Playing with the planet. Nature Clim. Change 1, 17–18 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. 60

    Fraser, A. Climate Mission 3D - A World Saving Game (Nokia, 2011); http://conversations.nokia.com/2011/07/06/climate-mission-3d-a-world-saving-game

    Google Scholar 

  61. 61

    Eklund, K. FutureCoast (PoLAR Projects, 2014); http://thepolarhub.org/project/futurecoast

    Google Scholar 

  62. 62

    Lederman, L. C. Debriefing: Toward a systematic assessment of theory and practice. Simulat. Gaming 23, 145–160 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. 63

    Petranek, C., Corey, S. & Black, R. Three levels of learning in simulations: Participating, debriefing, and journal writing. Simulat. Gaming 23, 174–185 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. 64

    Gustafsson, A., Bång, M. & Svahn, M. in Proceedings of the International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (eds Kato, H., Haller, M. & Vasilako, A. V.) 182–189 (Association for Computing Machinery, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  65. 65

    Gordon, E., Baldwin-Philippi, J. & Balestra, M. Why we engage: How theories of human behavior contribute to our understanding of civic engagement in a digital era. Berkman Center Research Publication 21, 1–29 (2013).

    Google Scholar 

  66. 66

    Shah, D., Cho, J., Eveland, W. & Kwak, N. Information and expression in a digital age: Modeling Internet effects on civic participation. Commun. Res. 32, 531–565 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. 67

    McGrath, M. Technology, media, and political participation. Natl Civic Rev. 100, 41–44 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. 68

    Kahne, J. The Civic Potential of Video Games (MIT Press, 2008).

    Google Scholar 

  69. 69

    Gordon, E. & Baldwin-Philippi, J. Playful civic learning: Enabling reflection and lateral trust in game-based public participation. Int. J. Commun. 8, 759–786 (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  70. 70

    Gordon, E. & Schirra, S. in Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Communities and Technologies (eds Foth, M., Kjeldskov, J. & Paay, J.) 179–185 (Association for Computing Machinery, 2011).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  71. 71

    Hart, C. A. Climate Diplomat (The Energy + Environment Foundation, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  72. 72

    de Luna, C. & Vicari, C. Artic Saga (PoLAR Projects, 2014).

    Google Scholar 

  73. 73

    Anno 2070 (Ubisoft Entertainment, 2011).

  74. 74

    Climate Challenge (Red Redemption, 2006); http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/hottopics/climatechange/climate_challenge

  75. 75

    WB Climate (Amsgames, 2013); http://www.amsgames.com

  76. 76

    Love Letters to the Future (Amythos Media, 2009); http://www.amythosmedia.com/projects/interactive/love-letters-to-the-future

Download references

Acknowledgements

J.S.W. and J.J.L. acknowledge the National Science Foundation for supporting this work under grant 1239783. We thank S. L. Pfirman for guidance on this manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

J.S.W. and J.J.L. jointly conceived this article. J.S.W. wrote the first draft. J.J.L. assisted with significant feedback, revision and editing of the final version.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joey J. Lee.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wu, J., Lee, J. Climate change games as tools for education and engagement. Nature Clim Change 5, 413–418 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2566

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing