Climate action game could change real-world behaviour

A role-playing game called World Climate Simulation could be the key to changing climate apathists into climate activists. A study showed that 81 per cent of participants who played the game were motivated to take action against climate change.

A game that can increase the motivation of its participants to combat climate change, regardless of political orientation, could be the key to inspiring a global climate movement of real action and change.

A recent study has found that World Climate Simulation, a role-playing game originally developed by the non-profit organization Climate Interactive, looked at how the game affected participants’ beliefs, emotional responses and intent to take action on climate change. Some 2,000 participants from eight countries and four continents, ranging from middle school students to CEOs, participated in the study.

Regardless of political orientation, cultural identity, age, gender, profession or geographical location, 81 per cent of participants in World Climate experienced an “increased understanding of climate change sense, a greater sense of urgency and hope, and increased motivation to learn more and do more about climate change”. And the more they learned through the game, the more their sense of urgency increased.

Says Professor Juliette Rooney-Varga of UMass Lowell, who led the study: “It was this increased sense of urgency, not knowledge, that was key to sparking motivation to act.”

Even more encouraging is that people outside the traditional climate change circles, including free-market proponents and people who knew and cared little about climate change before participating in the game, experienced even greater gains in knowledge, urgency and motivation to act.

Participants take on the roles of national delegates to the UN climate change negotiations and are tasked with forging a global agreement that successfully mitigates climate change. They mirror the real negotiations in many respects: for example, delegations are tasked with offering policies that cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Decisions are then entered into a climate policy computer model, giving participants immediate feedback on the expected impact of their decisions.

“For most of human history, experience has been our best teacher, enabling us to understand the world around us while stimulating emotions – fear, anger, worry, hope –that drive us to act,” explains Rooney-Varga.

“The big question for climate change communication is: how can we build the knowledge and emotions that drive informed action without real-life experience which, in the case of climate change, will only come too late? The answer appears to be simulated experience.”

Image credit: Nikola Jovanovic via Unsplash

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