Global Change Games

Through the use of fictional scenarios, games help us explore and reflect on the challenging and sometimes frightening problems we face as a result of rapid global change. The games below help us experience different perspectives and better understand the various ways climate change is affecting people, wildlife, and civilization. They help us talk about difficult topics by allowing us to approach them through fictional characters, and they inspire us to imagine positive futures and creative solutions.

Read more about climate change games from The Verge.

A room of round tables around which people are playing a discussion-based game. In the foreground, five people are talking through the game and writing something down on a large piece of paper.

Climate-Conscious NC: A Serious Game About Extreme Heat

Heat is nothing new to the Southeast, but a warming climate is giving rise to new challenges. North Carolina can expect to see more frequent and more intense heat events, including longer spans of extremely hot days that threaten human life. We can also expect to see warmer nights and higher minimum temperatures. These changes are creating a growing and inequitable public health hazard for North Carolinians.

Serious games are powerful learning tools that utilize intrinsically motivating gaming mechanics to build knowledge and emotional and intellectual connections to content. This game will take the form of an in-person deliberative public forum considering the economic and societal implications of climate-exacerbated extreme heat events on a fictional city.

Event: This in-person event will take place in the Hill Library Fishbowl Forum on October 13, 2022 from 4:00-5:30 p.m.

Three people laughing around a table on which a large piece of paper and wooden tokens are arranged

Climate-Conscious NC: A Serious Game About Extreme Precipitation

Central North Carolina can expect to see more extreme precipitation events—acute heavy deluges of precipitation that quickly dump water onto the land, or sustained long-term precipitation events. Either of these have the potential to overwhelm and overburden stormwater systems and cause flooding, mudslides, power outages, and damage to infrastructure, property, and human health. City and town planners must prepare and adapt to protect communities inequitably at-risk.

In this game, participants role play city planners and consider potential solutions for a fictional town experiencing more extreme precipitation events due to climate change.

Event: This event took place on April 8, 2022 from 10:00-11:30 a.m. You can view a recording on YouTube.

Bumblebee with title

Bee Simulator

Bee Simulator lets you explore a world brimming with life in which you collect pollen, defy dangerous wasps, and save your hive from pesticides, habitat loss, and pathogens. Lukasz Rosinski, founder of Bee Simulator studio Varsav, told The Verge, “We wanted to show a completely different perspective for this small insect using realistic models, graphics and gameplay mechanics inspired by real bees’ tasks, not cartoonish ones with an infantile story and mechanics.” Similar to a bee colony, this game encourages collaboration with up to 4 players to play simultaneously via split screen on dedicated maps. 

In a recent event, Libraries’ Learning Spaces & Services staff member Colin Keenan played Bee Simulator and talked about how the game helps players to be much more aware of this micro world and its challenges. Dr. Colin Brammer of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences also joined the stream and shared his extensive expertise on bees and the impact of climate change.

View video of gameplay and discussion of Bee Simulator
A white animal looks at a boy

Never Alone

Never Alone was developed in collaboration with the Iñupiat, an Alaska native people. Players experience a gorgeously animated world as a little girl named Nuna, traveling with her Arctic fox. Nuna and Fox work creatively together using unique talents and abilities to solve the mystery behind an abnormal blizzard. Documentary clips embedded in the game touch directly on evidence members of the Alaska Native community have observed for climate change, as well as how it impacts their way of life. 

In a recent event, College of Design senior Meghan Tankersley played Never Alone: Foxtales, an expansion to the original game that casts Nuna and Fox in a new adventure. She was joined by poet Ishmael Angaluuk Hope, who wrote the story based on a tale told by his grandfather, "Two Coastal Brothers." Hope says, "They get a little too exuberant, like young people will. They’ll make little mistakes, but then they have to learn a lesson about how to respect all things, the values of being Inuit, Iñupiaq. It’s something that they had to learn.” (Read more about Never Alone.) The conversation was moderated by the Libraries' Chris Tonelli, poet and co-owner of So & So Books in downtown Raleigh.

View video of gameplay and discussion of Never Alone: Foxtales
Illustration of an underwater diver, fish, and a whale

Beyond Blue

Our oceans are under threat from climate change, overfishing, and pollution. Inspired by the BBC series Blue Planet II, Beyond Blue takes players into the near future, where they explore the mysteries of our ocean through the eyes of Mirai, a deep-sea explorer and scientist. The game invites players to imagine what our ocean’s future might be. 

In a recent event Electrical & Computer Engineering PhD student Selene Schmittling and Dr. Vicky Thayer of the NC State Center for Marine Sciences and Technology played Beyond Blue and talked about how this game challenges players to find hope and feel agency amidst a natural environment under pressure.

View video of gameplay and discussion of Beyond Blue
World monuments and three men in various historic dress

Civilization VI: Gathering Storm

This expansion pack for the Civilization series explores the impacts of a changing planet on our civilization, and the effects of our civilization on Earth systems. Hurricanes sink ships at sea, dust storms sweep across the deserts and choke nearby cities, and blizzards in Russian terrain impede invading armies. There are strategic resources that can be burned for fuel—Coal, Uranium, and Oil—but also alternative options such as Geothermal energy, Wind Farms, and Solar Farms. 

In a recent event, Research Librarian for Business, Education, & Data Literacy Shaun Bennett played the game with Dr. Christopher Galik, Associate Professor of Public Administration at NC State and a public policy analyst whose research focuses on climate and low-carbon energy policy.

View gameplay of Civilization IV
Goat looking over a green landscape with a windmill

Eco

In Eco, you live on a planet with other real players. Your goal is to create a civilization capable of stopping a meteor that is on a collision course with your world. In 30 days, it will destroy everything — unless you work together to stop it. However, you must also work within the limits of the ecosystem. Can you save the world without destroying it in the process? Read more about Eco on Steam.

PC Gaming editor Jeff Grubb wrote about Eco, “Eco is a revelation...it made me realize that games are actually crucial for understanding our relationship to all kinds of natural and man-made systems. The thing that gives me chills is that I think it is only in games that we can play with economic systems. And I walked away from my experience in Eco feeling like I learned so much even though we had no instructor. No one was connecting the dots for us. We simply learned through play.”

Foxes on a beam in front of a city skyline

Endling

An endling is the last known individual of a species or subspecies. Once the endling dies, the species becomes extinct. The game Endling invites you to experience life through the eyes of the last fox on Earth, fighting to help her three cubs survive. Endling presents a radical critique of habitat destruction and includes scenarios addressing problems arising from intensive livestock production, water pollution, electronic waste, overpopulation, and climate change. Read more about Endling on Steam.

A ship at sea, lit up with neon lights and a Welcome sign

Anno 2070

In Anno 2070, rising sea levels have harmed coastal cities and climate change has made large stretches of land inhospitable. Politics is no longer defined by countries, but how humans choose to produce energy. Players must master resources, diplomacy, and trade in order to build a society of the future. Read more about Anno 2070 on Steam.

Screenshot of a game screen viewing Earth from space

Fate of the World

Fate of the World is a dramatic global strategy game that puts all our futures in your hands. The game features a dramatic set of scenarios based on the latest science covering the next two centuries. You must manage a balancing act of protecting the Earth’s resources and climate versus the needs of an ever-growing world population, who are demanding ever more food, power, and living space. Will you help the whole planet or will you be an agent of destruction?” Read more about Fate of the World on Steam.