Who knew that sustainability could be fun? Those who are in the business of “Serious Games”, that’s who. A growing number of digital game developers are finding ways of connecting game genres and mechanics to serious policy issues, creating outcomes that both educate and engage. Whether working in firms or loosely linked as individuals (you can join their Google Group), they represent an untapped resource for building policies and practices that are more sustainable and just.
Based in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Muzzy Lane is a leader in Serious Games by bringing immersive, fully 3D games to the web. Muzzy Lane’s suite of game titles promotes deeper understanding of science topics, community planning and development, ecology, and American history (developed with Harvard historian Niall Ferguson). Muzzy Lane also collaborates with others to develop game projects. Current partners include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Pearson, DARPA, and others.
Ecogamer.org is an online aggregator for a variety of free environmental games that developers have designed and tested. The site also hosts ecological footprint calculators; interactive quizzes on topics such as climate change, energy, and wind energy; and environmental polls.
Other initiatives using simulation and gaming technologies for sustainability purposes include:
- MIT, the Sustainability Institute, and others collaborated to create the Climate Bathtub Simulator, an online tool that demonstrates the dynamic interaction between carbon emissions and carbon absorption / sequestration by allowing users to control the filling and draining of a bathtub as a simplified visual image.
- Chevron uses game technology in Energyville, which it developed in conjunction with the Economist Group and Ecogamer.org. Energyville allows users to choose energy options while they build a virtual city. Players also learn about the challenge of matching energy needs to the realities of politics and other environmental, social, financial, and security concerns.
- At the Global Reporting Initiative Conference in May, Deloitte unveiled its Business Simulation Game, which is designed to “accelerate the implementation of corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives via stakeholder engagement and development of leadership capabilities”. MurninghanPost Editor Bill Baue participated in a demo of the game, and reports “it shows great potential for simulating sustainability scenarios.” (Deloitte will post a video of the demo in the near future.)
- Also in May, Allianz launched it CEO2 game, developed collaboratively with the World Wildlife Fund, which puts users in the shoes of corporate executives navigating climate-related decisions toward a low-carbon economy.
- This fall, IBM will launch IBM CityOne, a free online environmental game it’s developing — also in partnership with Ecogamer.org. Fast Company called the problems addressed in IBM CityOne “scarily real” because they range among energy, water, banking, and retail. For example, writes FC reporter Cliff Kuang, “one day you might get hit by a rapid increase in water usage due to population growth—while you’re still losing 40% of your water supply to leaky pipes….To fix that problem, you’ll have to carefully install a real-time water management system. Or, to encourage growth in small-businesses, you’ll have to set up an infrastructure of mobile payments, dynamic invoicing, and micro-lending.”
Interactive games and simulations might similarly be used to enhance corporate accountability (board elections, anyone?), build scenarios, and enable multiple stakeholders to sort through complex issues and test solutions. The possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination—and sense of serious play.