Guardian: Can video games change people’s minds about the climate crisis?

Spread the love

From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Reaching into homes and messing with people’s minds, Guardian style.

Can video games change people’s minds about the climate crisis?

A new wave of game makers are attempting to influence a generation of environmentally conscious players. Will it work, and is it enough?

Lewis Gordon Thu 26 Jan 2023 20.30 AEDT

It was scary. It made you realise how, despite all the sophistication of modern society, we’re still reliant on water falling from the sky.” Sam Alfred, the lead designer at Cape Town-based video game studio Free Lives, vividly remembers his city nearly running out of water. During 2018, the area surrounding South Africa’s second largest city suffered months of dwindling rainfall. Dams were unable to replenish themselves at the rate its inhabitants required. Water was rationed. Businesses shut. The situation even called for its own grim version of the Doomsday Clock: hour by hour, the city ticked ever closer to Day Zero, marking the end of its fresh water supply.

Terra Nil, the video game that Alfred has been developing since 2019, is a response to these terrifying events. Dubbed a “city-builder in reverse”, it foregoes the consumption and expansion of genre classics such as Civilisation and SimCity to paint a picture of environmental restoration. Starting with arid desert, it’s up to the player to rewild a landscape using various technologies – a toxin scrubber, for example, or a beehive. At light-speed, and with eye-massaging flushes of emerald green and azure blue, the environment transforms into lush vegetation. Terra Nil’s simplicity is as beautiful as its visuals, offering the satisfaction of a colouring book while doling out a clear-eyed critique of environment-wrecking extraction.

Regardless of whether it changes minds or behaviour, there’s an appetite from game makers and players alike to engage with the ongoing threat of global heating. Games such as ABZÛ and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure – ecological fables set in the ocean and on land – are among many that show us a way of seeing the world that isn’t through an aiming reticle.Read more:

Back in the real world, even “The Conversation” admitted Cape Town’s 2017-18 water crisis was in large part caused by corruption and incompetence, not climate change, same as most of South Africa’s other problems.

The cause of the crisis

The civil society group, South African Water Caucus, reveals that national government’s reluctance to release drought relief funding stemmed from spiralling debt, mismanagement and corruption in the national Department of Water and Sanitation.

This claim is supported by the Auditor General, which attributes “irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure” to the department exceeding its 2016-2017 budget by R110.8 million.

The department has no funding allocated to drought relief in the Western Cape next year. Again, provincial government will have to foot the bill.

Had systems in national government been running smoothly, Cape Town’s water crisis could have been mitigated. Appropriate water allocations would have made more water available to Cape Town. And with timely responses to disaster declarations, water augmentation infrastructure could have been up and running already.

Cape Town teaches us that water crises are rarely a matter of rainfall. Understanding disasters like droughts involves seeing the issue from many different perspectives, including politics.Read more:

As for the Guardian’s advocacy of using computer games to increase climate concern, it is difficult to imagine something more reprehensible.

A lot of computer game players are young people. Young people are already so frightened of climate change, they are destroying themselves with hard drugs, because they cannot face their fear.

The following is testimony from Dr. Alex Wodak, a high profile Australian expert on drug rehabilitation, to an ice addition inquiry in NSW in

First, the threshold step is redefining drugs as primarily a health and social issue rather than primarily a law enforcement issue. Second, drug treatment has to be expanded and improved until it reaches the same level as other health services. Third, all penalties for personal drug use and possession have to be scrapped.

Fourth, as much of the drug market as possible has to be regulated while recognising that part of the drug market is already regulated, such a methadone treatment, needle and syringe programs, medically supervised injecting centres. It will, of course, never be possible to regulate the entire drug market. We have regulated parts of the drug market before. Edible opium was taxed and regulated in Australia until 1906 and in the United States Coca-Cola contained cocaine until 1903.

Fifth, efforts to reduce the demand for powerful psychoactive drugs in Australia have had limited benefit and require a new focus. Unless and until young Australians feel optimistic about their future, demand for drugs will remain strong. Young people, understandably, want more certainty about their future prospects, including climate, education, jobs and housing affordability. Change will be slow and incremental, like all social policy reform.

As Herb Stein, as adviser to President Nixon said:
Things that cannot go on forever don’t.

Drug prohibition cannot go on forever and will be replaced by libertarian paternalism. Thank you.

…Source: Wayback Machine

I’m not an advocate of censoring computer games, but in my opinion there is nothing praiseworthy about actions designed to increase climate concern. I believe climate change focussed games could tip even more people, especially vulnerable young people, into a crisis from which they might not recover. Climate concern amongst young people especially is already cranked up so hard that some of the kids are breaking.