Friday, March 15, 2013

Games for Mother Earth

Why should we save the environment when it's way more fun to play XBox? Well, as it turns out, it may be possible to do both at once. The Science Museum in London has just begun a year long research project to examine what could be done to circumvent the feelings of dread that most people feel when environmental issues are brought up. Paula Owen, a a consultant with the project, hopes to, " take the concepts of gamification and use them in the environmental sector to try and promote greater pro-environment behavior."

One of the problems facing efforts to educate the populace on environmental degradation is information overload. There is so much data being dumped on the public through NGO's and news sources that the general public has developed a numbness which makes it hard to retain any of the information we come across.  We just tune it all out. What's more, when we see the daunting figures that reflect the level of destruction to the environment, we react with feelings of guilt, and can feel overwhelmed and powerless. Walls go up.

But when we play games, we open ourselves up to information through play. The walls and guilt are gone, and we turn on our minds in a way which makes us more likely to process and retain facts which convey the precarious position the planet is currently in. Together with researchers from Manchester University, Ms Owen will introduce games with environmental content to participants in the study. Several months later, the team will revisit participants to test how much information they retained.

While the study is in its initial stages, I have a feeling that this approach will be shown to be successful. It's been proven that games can be addictive, and for better or worse, the content in games does get ingested into our consciousness. It's about time we started making games which have benefits to the individual and the greater society.

For more information on climate change, visit

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