Climate change is posing a dramatic shift to our political, economic, and educational systems, and yet many people remain unsure about what effects this could have on their everyday lives as they plan to purchase groceries, commute to work, and communicate with friends and family.
Most of the emerging practices around climate change, including carbon taxing and emissions regulation, are just as ambiguous as many people seek to understand precisely how these practices could be implemented in an infrastructural transition, and what implications they could have beyond their direct impact.
Some books, TV shows, and films have been created in recent years to break down many of these challenges and opportunities into a language that is easy to understand as well as engaging; The Public’s Guide to Climate Economics by Noemi Florea (2023), is a forthcoming book published by Laero which translates many of the terms and concepts found in climate economics into everyday language for the general reader to understand.
Yet while these forms of media have contributed greatly to how climate change is regarded by many people, there is still an abundance of opportunity for new and alternative media to bridge the comprehension gap between our everyday actions and their larger climate-related impacts.
THE DESIGN CONTEXT
Gamification is one of our greatest opportunities for educating and engaging the public on complex topics in a way that allows them to take a hands-on approach and leave with key experience-based takeaways.
Users can participate in games either digitally or through analog mediums such as board games or cards. The choice of medium largely depends on the level of interaction the game demands; highly collaborative games, such as multi-player decision-making or competitive games, are likely better in an educational context when offered in an analog medium such as a board game, where players can sit side-by-side and learn the collaborative, interpersonal skills they will often use in real-life contexts.
Independent or adventure-based games are typically better represented in a digital medium where the “sphere” of the game is larger and the opportunity to interact or learn from characters within the game is stronger. Furthermore, when brainstorming how players will interact and what their core objectives will be, our design context revolved around fostering a competitive or collaborative setting, and how real-world tools — including policymaking and economic practices — could be leveraged as aids as players seek to achieve their goals or beat out other players.
When planning how to relay the challenges, impacts, and opportunities climate change brings to our global system, our team sought to present them in a way that would allow users to make connections between their everyday actions and many of these more systemic processes.
We aimed to aid users as they draw connections between the impacts their everyday actions would have on global resources, and moreover how that could support or prevent future generations from also living sustainably.
7Generations is a board game for 2+ players, where each player represents one of seven generations (sessions with more than seven players can have more than one player representing each generation).
Players are responsible for managing the operations and innovation of four key sectors — transportation, consumer goods, communications, and infrastructure — with the intent of advancing their generation’s society to the highest possible levels of innovation and technological advancement.
As they do so they must draw from resource pools that are shared between all generations, or players; these resource pools include nonrenewable resources such as water and oil, as well as renewable resources that require sustainable management, such as forestry.
Event and tool cards allow players to apply new policies or economic models to how they manage their sectors, which can help them regenerate the resource pools they draw from, or otherwise reduce the level of depletion they incur through development by allowing more efficient practices.
The winner of the game is whichever player is able to reach his/her generation’s maximum innovation capacity; however, the game automatically ends if any one generation dies off or loses access to all resources before any one player wins.
7Generations aims to show players how our current infrastructure — from how we travel to how we communicate to how we consume — impacts the global resource pools that must be shared with future generations. By having players draw from tangible resource pools, this game symbolizes the importance of regenerative infrastructure that will allow us to restore global resource pools or, at the very least, draw from them more efficiently in ways that will allow future generations to also utilize them for their own society’s needs.
By leveraging tools and events which represent key policy-making or economic strategies for climate change mitigation, this game also breaks down some of the more complex concepts found in the media or in academic literature into an interactive format that allows players to see exactly how and in what contexts they could be applied.
This game has a variety of audiences, ranging from a family with young children to a classroom of university students. We are currently in the process of prototyping and testing this game to validate and improve the decision-making processes players must undergo. We are also currently seeking funding to fabricate and distribute finished versions of the game, ideally through a variety of outlets including department stores, schools, and libraries.