Eco, a “global survival game” that puts ecological issues at the heart of its simulation game play, is helping to raise awareness among players about climate change and to devise practical solutions, which is then “directly transferable from the virtual world to the real world”.
Eco, from the US-based developer Strange Loop Games, is an online game where players must collaborate to build a civilisation in a world where everything they do affects the environment.
All resources come from a simulated ecosystem, with thousands of plants and animals simulating 24/7. It is the role of players to thrive in this environment by using resources from the world to eat, build, discover, learn and invent.
However, every resource they take affects the environment it is taken from, and without careful planning and understanding of the ecosystem, lands can become deforested and polluted, habitats destroyed, and species left extinct.
Both an entertainment and educational tool, Eco calls on players to work together to ensure not just their own survival, but that of the world around them, which is affected by just about every action they take.
In Eco, players must create a government encompassing the viewpoints of many other players, finding common ground among different biases and beliefs, creating regulations and electing leaders and passing laws that both protect the environment and advance societal progress, lest their world be destroyed.
They must also build the technology to stop a meteor on a collision course with the planet, without polluting the world and killing it off in the process before that even happens. If they cut down too many trees, for example, they might kill off a species.
Writing on the on the Eco game website wroteStrange Loop Games CEO John Krajewski : “Games have the magic ability to take a problem that is so vast as climate change, and compress it in time and space to a size that can be contended with, where your direct actions make a visible difference.
“Video games have a unique power in understanding concepts and bringing awareness, because unlike other mediums they are experienced interactively, meaning that the conclusions that one draws from them are their own, and through the construction of simulations that put players in challenges that mirror those of the real world, we allow them to experience the problem first-hand and design the solution, through collaboration with their fellow game citizens.
“In these high-stakes virtual worlds, the solution comes from you and the group or not at all. It builds a responsibility and agency in the player, embracing the sacrifices and advancements that are required to solve it. The mental model that is built from this first-hand experience of solving climate change in a virtual world is then directly transferable to the real one, and players can take from their own experiences the scope of the problem, the challenges that must be faced, and most importantly, how to go about solving them.
“Because Eco is an online game composed of many different people playing together, it drives home the fact that climate change is not just a scientific problem but a political one, and building the political will to solve it, even more so than the scientific understanding, is the primary challenge we face today.”
Last September, Strange Loop Games alongside other game companies including Sony PlayStation, Xbox, Twitch, Google and Microsoft committed to harness the power of their platforms to take action on the climate crisis and to get players on-board.
Twenty-one of the biggest companies in the video games industry launched the Playing For The Planet Alliance at the United Nations Climate Summit. The commitments range from planting trees, reducing plastics and toxics in packaging, improving circular economy in e-waste management, making game devices more energy-efficient, incorporating environmental themes into the games, and catalysing a new global scale ally in planetary problem-solving.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com