Educational benefit

Design discussions this week have focused on the “main screen” – the interface which the player sees most often, and whose purpose is to give them a succinct and comprehensible overview of the global situation. It’s something that’s emerged from our goal of reducing the game to its fundamental elements, as we’ve costed out the minimum budget we need to conclude development.

What we’ve ended up with is a screen that brings all the most important information to the same place, resulting in an at-a-glance visualisation of how climate change occurs, and what its effects are.

First, we see solar radiation entering the Earth’s atmosphere, which retains heat energy proportional to the amount of greenhouse gases – primarily carbon dioxide and methane. The more greenhouse gases there are, the more sunlight is trapped, and the higher global temperatures rise.

The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is constantly changing; plants on land and in the sea take carbon dioxide out, whilst humanity burning fossil fuels put a lot more in. That’s not the only source, of course – plenty of methane emerges from the digestive systems of Earth’s animals; many people are surprised to learn that the contribution our livestock rearing makes to climate change vastly outweighs air travel.

More greenhouse gases means more greenhouse effect; as the simulation progresses, global temperatures begin to rise. This excessive and unnatural heat manifests itself in worrying events presented on the in-game news channel. Forest fires become more prevalent. Ice caps melt, and sea levels rise, flooding low-lying areas where people live. Warmer temperatures mean that pests and diseases can spread into previously-uninhabitable areas. Sickness increases. Crops start to fail. People begin to starve. Conflicts foment. Nations teeter.

At the centre of all of this is humanity itself, the prime mover of the whole system. It is we who raze the forests, raise the cattle, burn the coal, and refine the oil, as we seek to provide comfortable lives for ourselves through technological advancement. Can we forge a benign relationship with the ecosystem that nurtures us? Or will we destroy it, as a parasite kills its host? Will we eventually become an interstellar species, and what price might we have to pay to do so?

Postulating answers to questions like these is what Fate of the World is all about, using data-based and peer-reviewed science as our yardstick. We’re proud of the attention our approach has drawn from educators over the past few years; many schools, colleges, and universities have made use of the original game, both as a way of teaching people the details of climate change, and testing their attitudes to the possible outcomes.

To be clear, we welcome educational interest in the game, and we’re happy to offer free Fate of the World access to any establishment that would like them – all you need to do is e-mail with suitable accreditation, and we can set you up with a game code for each student.

This is an approach we’d like to take through to the new game too – though we also have to balance this against making enough revenue to keep the company afloat. One suggestion that emerged this week was making the new game “free for schools” a stretch goal on our Kickstarter. Is that a compelling notion? If not, what do you think we should do? We’d love to hear your opinions, either on social media or by e-mail.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with further news of our progress.

The Fate team