Climate games are any games that contain significant climate themes or references. Some such games are focused entirely on addressing the climate crisis, while others address the theme tangentially by including climate references or gaming mechanics related to greenhouse gas emissions and resultant climate disruptions.
Why do climate games matter? First of all, if they’re done right, they’re fun! Having fun is important for its own sake. It’s also an important part of a well-rounded approach to climate communication. Most people don’t want to spend every waking moment talking about gloom-and-doom scenarios, or even positive solutions that will require a lot of hard work. They want time in their day for relaxation, play, creativity, and social activities like playing games with friends and family. Climate games are a good way to engage in playful social activity while still including climate themes or references.
This page is still under development. I have a long mental list of games to add here, and I’m always looking for more. If you have any suggestions, please contact me. If you send me information about a climate game that I didn’t know about yet, I’d be happy to give you credit on this page when I add the listing.
Climate Video Games
- Cranky Uncle. The Cranky Uncle game uses cartoons and critical thinking to fight misinformation. The game was developed by George Mason University scientist John Cook, in collaboration with creative agency Autonomy. The game is now available for free on iPhone and Android. The smooth gameplay, including colorful cartoons, really makes this fun enough to appeal to a broad audience beyond the usual die-hard climate communicator crowd.
- EarthGames. EarthGames is a growing community of researchers, game developers and students who share a passion for games and the environment. We’re hard at work adapting the latest scientific research to develop amazing video and board games to teach and inspire players about the natural world and our role within it.
- Deal: A Green New Election by EarthGames. This is a fun and somewhat addicting game. You’re a local politician trying to drum up support for a Green New Deal ballot initiative. It’s almost Election Day, and your ballot initiative is clinging to a narrow lead in the polls. Voters are concerned about effects on jobs and cost of living, and the press is waiting for answers about difficult policy questions. An angry fossil fuel CEO has contacted you with a proposal that sounds an awful lot like a threat. And do I smell smoke?? Deal: A Green New Election is available for free for iPhone/iPad and Android (Google Play). You can play it on your phone or play in your browser (though the developers recommend the app).
- 2020 Games for Our Future (GFOF) Game Jam. From games about bats facing habitat destruction, climate revolutions, wildfire management, and finicky fornicating pandas on the mission to ensure the survival of their species — the 2020 Games for Our Future (GFOF) Game Jam had it all. This year’s event in collaboration with IndieCade, allowed game jammers from across the country (and planet!) to create games focused on the theme of ‘Community, Nature, and Resilience in the Face of Global Crises’, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The event from April 17th – 23rd drew over 150 game jammers who submitted a total of 49 diverse games, all centered around pressing environmental issues, in just 5 short days. The EarthGames article about the 2020 GFOF Game Jam tells the full story, including a list of the contest winners and a link to check out and play all of the games.
Climate Tabletop Games
- Energetic by City Atlas. Energetic is a four-player cooperative challenge in which you work to decarbonize New York City by building 16 GW of carbon-neutral energy by 2035 (in the Green New Deal version) or 2050 (in the standard version). You can build entirely with renewables (wind, water and solar), or, by doing research before construction, include advanced nuclear power or natural gas with carbon capture (CCS). Energetic is available through City Atlas’ partner, Artist As Citizen, a 501(c)3 arts organization. It currently costs $79 (with an option to donate more), so you may need to talk to a few of your gamer/climate friends to chip in on a group or community set.
- Catan Scenarios: Oil Springs. Catan Scenarios: Oil Springs is an expansion to the popular Catan tabletop game. All of the existing rules of Catan apply, but the expansion adds oil as a resource to be extracted, traded, and consumed. It’s the most powerful resource in the game, but watch out! If you burn too much oil, disaster strikes. Portions of the game board become unusable, and the sea levels start to rise, damaging or eliminating coastal settlements.