Online game shows scope, challenges of global climate change responses

11th May 2021 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

A free online interactive fiction game Survive the Century aims to show players that the future of the climate depends on the choices people make today and, while light-hearted, it is informed by climate science.

The branching narrative game about the political, environmental and social choices humans will face between 2021 and 2100, as the world adapts to climate change, was created by best-selling author Sam Beckbessinger in collaboration with University of Cape Town African Climate and Development Initiative senior researcher Dr Christopher Trisos and American University associate Professor Simon Nicholson.

It includes short fiction by Lauren Beukes, Rajat Chaudhuri, Maria Turtschaninoff and Sophia Al-Maria.

The game involves a series of policy choices, often humorously phrased, that the player chooses between that lead to an outcome for each successive decade from 2021 to 2100.

The results of the player's choices are shown as a series of headlines - ranging from humorous to ominous - wrapping up the main world news for that decade. The player decisions are framed as influential media and news posts that contribute to or mitigate global warming and global development.

“Climate change can feel very distant, with scientific forecasts for global temperature in 2100. Stories of potential pathways to the future, based on science, are essential because they let us experiment with what it will be like to make choices to adapt to climate change, or not, and feel an emotional connection with the consequences of those choices,” says Trisos.

“The game aims to show players that there are steps we can take to mitigate global heating and ensure an equitable, green future,” says Beckbessinger.

“I created Survive the Century because I felt hopeless and I wanted to explore the ways in which we still have power. Our choices matter, and it’s not all over just yet.

"We hope this game helps you to feel less hopeless and nihilistic about the future. There are still a lot of decisions we can make that will lead to dramatically different futures,” she says.

"Climate change is not a distant environmental matter. Climate change is made and experienced by people. How the future will play out is going to be shaped by choices taken by people today, and tomorrow, and the day after," adds Nicholson.

“We need better tools for understanding and peering into that future, not out of a sense that we can know for certain what awaits, but so that we can more clearly see the important choices available to us today,” he says.

The team hopes the game lets people experience that the choices they make today matter, and that every bit of a degree of warming matters.

“If you’re going down the highway of climate change and miss the 1.5 °C exit, that doesn’t mean you’re committed to hell. Try and get off at 1.6 °C. If you miss that, try and get off before 2 °C. I really hope this helps communicate that,” states Trisos.

The game can be played online at https://survivethecentury.net/. The player is an editor of a popular newspaper and chooses headlines that influence public opinion and political responses to climate change, including a green recovery from Covid-19. The player’s choices shape the future, and they’re able to read the news that results.