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Updates for EcoTrivia and Climate Quest!

At long last, EcoTrivia: Save the Animals and Climate Quest have been upgraded to version 2.0!

EcoTrivia features entirely redone background and character art by Rikki Parent, along with new easy and hard questions. Try to reach the high score in both categories!

ClimateQuest still features the great, strategic gameplay that won 1st place at the 2015 Climate Game Jam, but now the text scrolling can be sped up, and the game has a revamped UI!

 

 

Game Review: Thoreau-ly Tranquil

By Lars Olsen

Walden, a Game undertakes the seemingly impossible task of converting American philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s most popular piece of literature into a video game. Nevertheless, the result is a surprisingly thoughtful experience focused on achieving work-life balance. You would be hard-pressed to find a more peaceful, reflective survival game available.

The game is a first-person simulation of the social experiment that Thoreau captured in his famous book, Walden. Beginning in the summer of 1845, the game loosely follows the timeline of his first year living in the woods at Walden Pond. The player undertakes their own journey of “living deliberately” in these woods near the town of Concord, Massachusetts, in a landscape modeled after reality, right down to the flora and fauna.

On this journey, players are in full control of their actions and the resulting consequences. You can play Walden like a classic survival game – fishing, mending clothes, and chopping wood all day – but lack of rest and reflection will cause your character to lose inspiration, silencing the birds and draining color from the woods. Alternatively, you may play the game like a virtual stroll through the woods – listening to bird calls and identifying plants – but you will soon starve and freeze. The key to success is finding a balance between work and meditation, just as Thoreau did.

We live in a society where “busy” is equated with “successful”, but Walden allows you to rethink what is truly important in life. This gentle pace challenges the player to find satisfaction through introspection and simple pleasures. We have been well trained by survival games to constantly search for the next task and finish as much as possible before sun-down. In Walden, no monsters come in the night, leaving you with plenty of time for a stroll around the pond. This format takes some getting used to, but it is an excellent reminder to slow down in the real world too.

The themes posed by Walden may be more important than ever for a generation of Millennials that have grown up with smartphones in their pockets. The game is also likely a more inviting medium to explore for a younger audience than the novel, so it makes the story more accessible than ever. Along with this accessibility, Walden has strong educational potential for players of all ages. Playing upon Thoreau’s values of environmentalism and self-reliance, the game can revitalize these same ideas that have been discussed in classrooms for over a century.  

Walden brings to life the Walden Woods and makes Thoreau’s story available to everyone. It immerses players in these tranquil woods, and advocates for a slower pace of life. Given Thoreau’s scorn for technological advances speeding up life, I wonder how he would react to his experiment being condensed into a 6-hour video game. Nonetheless, Walden provides an opportunity for everyone to take a trip to the woods and consider the pace of life.

Summary
Gameplay/Fun: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Educational: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Scientific Rigor: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Accessibility: Ages 8+
Platform: itch.io – Windows and MacOS – $18.45

Infrared Escape updated!

There’s a whole new atmosphere in Infrared Escape version 2.0!  We’ve completely overhauled the gameplay and design, and it’s even more fun now!  The level select is now a timeline, showing the sources and amount of pollution you’ll have to dodge.

IMG_1498.PNGWe’ve also added a large amount of unlockable science facts about the greenhouse effect and solutions to climate change.  Try to collect them all!

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Infrared Escape is now available on iPad as well!  Download it here for Android and iPhone/iPad.
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EarthGames team members Samuel Dassler, Amara Kitnikone, Sara Brostrom, and Rikki Parent all worked hard on the new version.  Please download, share, rate, and review the new version!  We’d appreciate your comments on the game as well.

New Game Release and Nature Article

EarthGames has been hard at work developing games this summer, and we have two exciting announcements!

EarthGames, Professor Dargan Frierson, and Professor Josh Lawler were mentioned in an article published in Nature on July 19th! The article is about scientists who develop board games, card games and digital games that teach young and old users about science concepts.

To coincide with this article, EarthGames released Erode Runner on 7/19 for iPad, iPhone, and Android phones and tablets. During this game, the player takes on the role of an Arctic fox struggling to avoid Arctic coastal erosion and other obstacles while simultaneously saving lost baby foxes. Throughout the game, players gain access to information about the environmental, social and economic impacts of coastal erosion in the Arctic.

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We have many games in development right now. Be on the lookout for updates to Infrared Escape, and new games about pikas, rain on snow events, and hurricanes!  We can’t wait to share these with you.

If you’d like to support our efforts, check out the donation page to see how you can help. Your donations are greatly needed to help us keep our educational outreach specialist and our lead game designer working on our projects for longer.  Thanks and enjoy your summer!

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Eco, Shelter 2, and Walden win awards at inaugural EarthGames on Tap

By Sara Breslow, Center for Creative Conservation

Three earth-friendly video games won awards at the Center for Creative Conservation’s inaugural EarthGames on Tap event, which took place May 18, 2017 in Seattle. Twelve stunning “earthgames” were entered into the games showcase. A panel of three judges carefully evaluated the games based on their potential to have an environmental impact and the quality of their game play. In the judges’ competition, Shelter 2 won first place and Walden won second place. In addition, audience members voted for their favorite game, and Eco won the people’s choice award. Congratulations! We hope EarthGames on Tap inspires more video games that are good for people and the planet, and we hope to see all of the participating developers, and more, at our next event.

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Game Review: Fate of the World – Tipping Point

By Lars Olsen

The end is near! Earth is facing rapidly increasing global temperatures, human overpopulation, natural disasters, and much more. In Fate of the World (FotW), it is your mission to save the planet from impending doom through a series of strategic decisions. You must guide civilization safely into the future while balancing environmental, social, and political strife. This climate change simulation game provides a convincing and elaborate look at the future of humanity.

In the introduction of FotW at the 2020 Climate Summit, the Global Environmental Organization (GEO) is formed because individual nations can no longer be entrusted with environmental protection. As the president of the GEO, you must make tough decisions in a time of economic uncertainty and civil unrest. The game consists of several missions with various objectives that include limiting global warming, increasing GDP, or simply surviving. Your only tools for fighting the apocalypse are cards, which do things like expand renewable energy, instill a one child policy, or ban the use of coal across a region. You can determine which cards are beneficial to your mission by tracking an extensive web of depressing data. Success will only come to those who persevere, which helps players learn through trial and error.

Fate of the World provides an intensely complex model on the most challenging global issues of the 21st century: climate change, population growth, famine, poverty, politics, etc. This complexity is portrayed through unfiltered data sets on global emissions, population size, fossil fuel production, deforestation, GDP, food production, and everything in between. Such intricate data enables you to delve deep into strategizing for each region, which builds tension as every decision is a compromise and no strategy is perfect. For example, you may be forced to ban fossil fuels to slow climate change, but in exchange for destroying the fragile economy of developing regions. Ethical dilemmas and tough decisions inform players of the nuances of both the threats of and potential solutions for climate change. The emphasis on data and real world technologies demonstrates the benefits of evidence-based science in a changing world.

Despite the game’s wealth of data, FotW lacks simple cause and effect relationships to give the player feedback on their actions. This flaw may detract from the learning experience, but perhaps the developers intended their game to be cryptic in order to demonstrate how complicated these issues are. The sheer amount of numbers to sort through each turn is honestly overwhelming, so it would take a dedicated player to uncover every secret of the simulation. Unfortunately, the emphasis on quantitative analysis could easily be a turnoff for a casual gamer or younger player.

Fate of the World is more simulation than video game. It is cruel and provides a bleak outlook on global issues, yet it has enormous potential for educating about climate change and offers a challenging puzzle for everyone. Perhaps the best takeaway from FotW is its focus on portraying the interconnectedness of human activity around the world. There may not be a perfect solution for climate change, but we can survive with a little bit of compromise and a whole lot of data analysis.

Summary
Gameplay/Fun: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Educational: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Scientific Rigor: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Accessibility: Ages 13+
Platform: Steam ($19)