How Early Video Games Expressed Environmentalism

thanks motherboard

It can be fun to tune out and just play some games, and that’s a good thing. There are games that are obviously educational like Math Blaster and there are games like Carmen Sandiego that celebrate fun over learning while still teaching. Indeed, there are many games being played that entertain and educate at the same time – and they are subtle about it. In what is partly a self-exploratory piece over at Motherboard the author has created a list of early Sega games that celebrated environmentalism.

So every now and then, take a break, and relax by playing games.

In Sonic 2, our heroic hedgehog speeds through the Chemical Plant, where he definitely doesn’t want to stay under the chemical solutions they’ve been working on for more than a few seconds. Later, he fights toxic sludge-spewing, enslaved and mechanized animals in the “Oil Ocean Zone.” The game ends with Super Sonic flying alongside the baby eagles he’s freed from the evil Dr. Robotnik.

Vectorman follows “Orbots” who are cleaning up Earth because humans have destroyed it: “It’s 2049 and Earth’s cities, forests, and icecaps are fouled with toxic sludge,” the game starts. Vectorman fights through the ruins of humanity’s cityscapes in an attempt to make it safe for the return of mankind.

Read more.

Support DeepCity 2030: A City Sim About Cats And Resilient Cities

DeepCity Pitch video from DeepCITY Project on Vimeo.

DeepCity 2030 is like Sim City meets Clash of Clans plus a Laser Cat and at least one Disco Jesus. The game has a hyperbolic approach to climate change and it’s up to the player to figure out what sort of city they want to create. Players can deal with environmental issues by harming other players or by trying to build a green utopia. It’s a social game with a fun environmental twist. The team includes theatre of The End of Suburbia.

By the year 2030, 6 out of 10 humans will live in cities. The way these urban centres evolve to manage their energy and waste will determine the fate of the planet. Deep City 2030 asks the question, ‘What if cities could save the world?’.

The game combines a gritty steampunk aesthetic and off-beat humour with ongoing opportunities for players to demonstrate strategic prowess by inventing possible world futures.

The goal in Deep City 2030 is to survive and build a livable city, using whatever tactics you choose. It’s in your power to create a city that reigns supreme in the face of hostile competitors, a greedy Overlord, and cataclysmic world events. Be the leader of your own futuristic empire in Deep City 2030!

The game starts in a city in the year 2030. Dark, whimsical characters inhabit and can change the city as you play. Players explore deeper post-apocalyptic settings or work towards building resilient cities, solo or multiplayer. Your friends in social networks can be key advisors or adversaries. As in the real world, there are a lot of ways to “get ahead”. You can forge alliances with other players to make your city a better place for everyone. Or you can embrace the dark side and go rogue.

Support DeepCity now.

More coverage about the game elsewhere:

Boing Boing
Cliqist
Animal NY

Full disclosure: I provided some advice for this game.
This post original appeared on my game design blog.

Video Games to Help the World

A game based on the story Half the Sky puts players into a perspective usually different than their own: a young girl in the developing world. It teaches young gamers in the developed world empathy and what it’s like to be a young girl trying to make a living in the majority world. It’s always nice to see games being used to make the world a little better.

If you succeed at certain tasks, the game triggers donations through partner charities. For example, the game has donated a quarter-million books. Players can also use real money to purchase virtual items — and that money has brought in more than $450,000 in charitable donations.

Since it launched nearly a year ago, more than 1.1 million people have played Half the Sky. Though that’s nothing compared to a game like Farmville, still it makes Half the Sky one of the most successful advocacy games.

Read more here.

Play Tetris to Reduce Traumatic Flashbacks

Playing games is tons of fun and enterprising people are finding ways to better humanity through gameplay. I just found out that Tetris can be used to help people deal with traumatic experiences – cool!

Research tells us that there is a period of up to six hours after the trauma in which it is possible to interfere with the way that these traumatic memories are formed in the mind. During this time-frame, certain tasks can compete with the same brain channels that are needed to form the memory. This is because there are limits to our abilities in each channel: for example, it is difficult to hold a conversation while doing maths problems.

The Oxford team reasoned that recognising the shapes and moving the coloured building blocks around in Tetris competes with the images of trauma in the perceptual information channel. Consequently, the images of trauma (the flashbacks) are reduced. The team believe that this is not a simple case of distracting the mind with a computer game, as answering general knowledge questions in the Pub Quiz game increased flashbacks. The researchers believe that this verbal based game competes with remembering the contextual meaning of the trauma, so the visual memories in the perceptual channel are reinforced and the flashbacks are increased.

Read more at the University of Oxford.
Hat tip to Reddit.

Kids Should Fail

A prevailing attitude in North American schools is that students shouldn’t be able to fail, but really what better place than a school to learn from mistakes? Thankfully people are noticing that letting kids not excel at something is actually a good thing. Interestingly, it’s in the world of games that parents and educators let students fail.

It would be great to see kids being encouraged to explore knowledge and new ways of learning beyond the environment of a modern classroom.

3. Progress must be transparent. Lee Peng Yee, one of the main thinkers behind the system of math instruction in Singapore, once told me: “If you think you can catch the bus, you will run for it.” It’s a great image, and good games keep players in a recurring cycle of running to catch one bus after another, all leading to reachable goals. Look for games that keep the next milestone in sight and constantly show progress toward it. Seeing yourself get better at something is incredibly motivating.

Read more here.

Thanks Mike!

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