Round-Up: Insightful Ideas From Our ‘Gaming For Good’ Salon

Round-Up: Insightful Ideas From Our ‘Gaming For Good’ Salon

Former Vice President Al Gore, Alex Bogusky and Aaron Dignan discuss various gaming concepts at PSFK's live event this past Friday that rise to the challenge of climate change.

Plus Aziz
  • 5 december 2011

PSFK hosted a very exciting event last Friday. Our Gaming For Good salon focused on how game mechanics can encourage constructive actions to tackle difficult or challenging problem — in this case Climate Change — to make them fun. Alongside The Climate Reality Project, an events-based organization that targets people denying the reality of climate change, we collected and evaluated strategic concepts from creative agencies all over the world, based on concepts from our Future Of Gaming report that leverage games as a cultural force of change. In a statement by President and CEO of The Climate Reality Project, Maggie L. Fox said:

Gaming presents us with new and innovative ways to engage more people in the climate fight–interesting, fun and empowering ways to make change. Many of the submissions we offered today will help more people focus on solutions in creative and original ways.

Our panelist judges included CEO of FearLess‘ Alex Bogusky, Undercurrent’s Aaron Dignan, and former Vice President, Al Gore. For 40 years, Al Gore, who is a firm believer in gaming, has been working to establish methods to engage people and align their behavior with the urgent mission to reverse climate change. He highlighted several concepts: Climate Trail, RealiTree, and GreenSquare as particularly effective ideas. To learn more about the winning ideas, read our post on the finalists.

Insights & Highlights from Al Gore’s Talk

  • Paralysis in Policy: People, not governments, are the ones showing conviction to address climate change. Since mainstream media caters to companies and not people, Al Gore called for the preservation of “the public square,” especially as the Internet develops more “gatekeepers who charge tolls.” Additionally, people must also continue to ask about environmental policy at the schools they attend, the companies they do business with, and the places they work, in order to make sustainable practices the norm. Everyone has heard a story about how a single individual changed the entire course on a particular issue. We must pressure markets and political leaders to respond to this desire and address this crisis.
  • Becoming More Sustainable Means Overhauling Underlying Systems: Changes in policy is a must from the bottom up. The solution must be put in place not only through new technology, but new financing systems and new social models for encouraging efficiency.
  • On Brands: While companies are not shifting their environmental practices fast enough, their missions are still rising. Brands cannot get consumers to adopt political frameworks directly. Greenwashing exists, but increasingly there is a shift that is consequential.
  • Leveraging Exponential Growth: Computational power has been increasing exponentially; imagine such an innovation curve that produces successive generations of renewable energy technology that will be cheaper than electricity and coal.
  • Why Gaming Matters: Gaming concepts help us solve for connecting people and getting them to think deeply through new ways of engagement. The immense crisis presents an immense opportunity for positive change.
  • On Power: Too much power in one place is never a good thing; no matter the character, virtue, nature, politics, or ideology of the individuals involved. It’s a basic thermo-dynamic equation.
  • How Were We Impacted by Climate Change This Year: Within the last half-decade, many communities have been getting once-in-a-thousand-year-rainfall: Pakistan, Nashville Tennessee, New Zealand, Salvador, and Thailand. The east coast got hurricane Irene this year too. Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe are experiencing the worst drought in decades leading to fluctuations in food prices that can lead to massive political backlash. He asserted the idea that Tunisia’s Arab Spring was sparked by a food vendor in response to rising crop prices.

Insights & Highlights from Our Presenters:

The game concepts submitted were highly focused on providing rewards for daily activities and injecting a social experience into their platform. All avoided creating a ‘self-monitoring’ approach, where a player would compete with him or herself to improve the impact of their consumption, instead focused on strategies to leverage community action, building awareness, information sharing, solving the unsolvable and/or teaching new skills, all of which are intentions we point out in the Future of Gaming trends report.

Serious Games: Empowered Activism Through Daily Habits

These games are focused on a real world skill set or initiative. Esterni‘s Climate Heroes, Parlor’s Climate Reality Patrol, and LG2’s Mission Green integrate commenting, activism, and online monitoring into an ecosystem where users are environmental watchdogs that are expected to report on climate abuse and sources of misinformation, thereby “separating fact from fiction” as creator Alex Poole commented. People are rewarded for organizing their communities to stop negative practices in the public space and to engage with brands via their business practices.

A Roadblock Strategy

Wieden + Kennedy’s Climate Reality execution is something that could occur on Earth Day. The initiative would build relationships with makers of popular games (such as Call of Duty, Angry Birds, World of War Craft) and have climate change related virtual incidents disrupt gameplay in their incredibly popular games in a surprising way that would reach a massive audience.

Playing to Expand Knowledge

While they have different purposes, Zemoga’s Climate Trail, Awkward Hug’s Greensquare, and Arnold’s Destination Reality: Farmville all draw inspiration from established games (i.e. Oregon Trail, Foursquare). While Climate Trail is a text-based concept focusing on getting users to bolster their climate-related knowledge through the gaming narrative, Greensquare rewards users for checking-in to locations that observe eco-friendly business practices. Both tactics successfully add to the knowledge of the participants in different ways. Destination Reality puts weather pattern algorithms in Zynga’s Farmville game play. Aaron Dignan pointed out that Arnold’s idea adds an educational layer the original Farmville concept.

Measuring And Visualizing Collective Action

These concepts are about taking something abstract and visualizing it. Cynergy’s Sprout and Stark Design’s RealiTree measure collective swarms of activity to generate awareness, inspire playful and beneficial behavior to transform careless habits into informed decisions. Sprout augments in-store experiences and shopping behavior; the ultimate goal is to pressure companies to develop better ecological practices. RealiTree measures local activity by aggregating tweets, Foursquare check-ins, links, and all kinds of ecological statements. The visual spectacle reflects the climate reality and health of the surrounding community. Cities may compete as the platform scales.

As Alex Bogusky said, climate change is not anyone’s fault, but something that is shared. By tackling this fundamental challenge through gaming, a new energy is brought into environmentalism.

Click through the thumbnails below to see more photos from the event:


Images via Louis Caldarola.

To check out all the concepts, click the banner below to access our Gaming For Good report.



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