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Video Game Industry Is Nudging 250 Million Gamers To Protect The Planet

Some of the world’s largest mobile video game developers have formed an alliance to raise awareness about renewable energy and the climate crisis through the UN’s “Playing For the Planet” initiative.

Consisting of around 11 companies, including the console producers Sony and Microsoft, and 25 design studios with mobile games played by 900 million active users, Playing For the Planet seeks to leverage a huge number of eyes and ears towards the goal of combatting not just evildoers in a game, but unmitigated climate change in the real world.

To this end, mobile gaming studios teamed up in spring 2020 to host the first ever Green Mobile Game Jam, which brought the best minds in an extremely competitive business together to come up with educational solutions for spreading awareness about the climate crisis.

“We are excited to see the gaming industry throw its weight behind global efforts to reverse the climate crisis,” said Inger Andersen Executive Director of UN Environment Program. “The climate emergency needs all hands on deck. In reaching out to 250 million gamers, we hope to inspire audiences to take action.”

Some of the mobile game ideas have already been integrated, and the rest will go live by early 2021 or sooner.

Organizers hope that, by next year, additional companies will join in the jam, potentially reaching up to a billion gamers.

Green Mobile Game Jam
Different developers all had their own ideas on how to encourage initiatives like tree-planting and habitat restoration, on how to educate users on renewable energy and the environmental impact of climate change, and the Green Mobile Game Jam from the Playing For the Planet initiative saw the immense creativity of the mobile video gaming world on full display.

Some developers added special unique stages and levels of gameplay featuring world regions that are most-affected by the climate crisis: including Bali in Indonesia and the Amazon rainforest, while others added playable storylines that allow users to experience a parallel story involving greenhouse gas emissions and the warming of the earth.

Others ran in-game fundraisers that would plant trees or support animal conservation projects. Contributing in the game would earn the player special rewards. Creative Mobile—who won an award for fastest implementation of a solution in their game ZooCraft—used this method to contribute $14,000 dollars to the Wolf Conservation Center.

“We felt compelled to act when invited to participate; climate change will ultimately affect us all and is simply too important to ignore,” says Alex Rigby, Chief Creative Officer of Playdemic, the studio which was voted as the winner of the Green Mobile Game Jam.

“And we’re in a position to help; the ubiquity of mobile games represent an unusually effective way to communicate to people across the whole of society.”

Playdemic used their Golf Clash game as a platform to attempt to feature honest, neutral messaging about climate change and easy commitments users could make to help the climate crisis.

Console Gaming Joins In The Fun
Launched in September 2019 at the UN Headquarters in New York during the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, it wasn’t just the mobile gaming industry that pledged to throw their power behind the climate crisis.

From the holy trinity of console gaming, Sony’s introduction of energy efficient technology and suspended low-power mode for next-generation Playstations puts the company on track to save 29 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2030.

Another member of the console-gaming power trio pledged to engage gamers in sustainability efforts in real life through the Minecraft ‘Build a Better World’ initiative, which saw Microsoft players take more than twenty million in-game actions.

Minecraft is an open-world game that allows you to build things with blocks. Users can build anything, from a house to a skyscraper, even portals to the underworld, and one gamer famously created a 1:1 scale model of the entire planet in Minecraft—making it the perfect electronic space for sustainability messaging.

Together, mobile and console gaming has as broad a user base as professional sports, but with a much younger average audience, representing an enormous opportunity to inspire change in the next generation.