Environmental Game Design as Activism

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The disconnect between climate activists and their skeptical audience is a multipart communication challenge of representing the unrepresentable. Even if we accept climate change as reality, enormous barriers stand between humans and effective action, the first being a crisis of imagination: climate change is too big for representation, scholars such as Morton (2013) and Marshall (2014) have argued. This paper examines games that have taken climate-related themes into account and analyzes them in search of resonant design elements that might work to communicate about climate change. Focusing particularly on two independent games that stand out as climate change fiction (cli-fi), Little Inferno and The Flame in the Flood, this paper highlights the narrative and representational capabilities of digital games to facilitate engaging, educational, emotional environmental experiences. Rather than focusing on doomsday, as cli-fi tends to do, there may be more effective ways to explore climate change solutions. Some of the video game design principles that could be manipulated to this end include: nonhuman avatars; dynamic game environments that impact player-characters; mechanics that reflect climate change characteristics; and reliance on player ethics. If game design can persuasively communicate about climate change and encourage players to innovate solutions, games may have the potential to turn play into activism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-102
Number of pages15
JournalEcozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Video games
  • cli-fi
  • environment
  • activism
  • climate change
  • Videojuegos
  • medio ambiente
  • activismo
  • cambio climático


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