However secluded we might want to be in our water-cooled gaming caves, it’s impossible to escape the reality of living in a living, breathing world, or the impact humanity has on its condition, globally and locally. Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves that we aren’t living in a simulation with cheat code overrides to control the world parameters.
The good part is that we don’t even need to step away from our hobby to become more aware of the state of the world around us. There is no shortage of video games with environmental messaging at their core or at least as one of the major themes. One could think that on topics such as exploitation of natural resources or climate change video games have little to say, but even before the third millenium we had Final Fantasy VII and its environmental themes.
So without postponing the inevitable, let’s talk about games teaching something about preservation of our natural world and the reasons why it’s important.
Fate of the World
|Developer:||Red Redemption Ltd|
Fate of a World has a very dramatic title, which is quite appropriate for the subject matter. It’s a strategy game with a global scope, with a timeline going from 2020 to 2200, and the big challenge it poses is protecting the climate and natural resources from further deterioration due to human activity. The campaign puts the future of Earth’s habitability in your hands, so be responsible.
You’ll be devising and implementing policies, responding to issues and calamities (including droughts, political crises, and glacial melt), and trying to avoid tipping points putting Earth on a downward spiral towards extinctions and becoming unable to sustain human life. The game uses a scientific model and large collections of data to present a believable, if dire, challenge.
A New Beginning - Final Cut
A New beginning is a traditional Point & Click adventure game from Daedalic Entertainment, creators of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. It begins in the far future where humans were driven underground due to ecological collapse. As a time-traveler sent to the past, your task is to prevent the catastrophe to occur. Of course, convincing people you’re from the future won’t be easy.
A New Beginning has a strong environmental theme going on, with a good bit of the plot revolving around the South American rainforests and advocating for safe, renewable sources of energy instead of easy, profitable, and destructive ones. The plot goes for an adventure-thriller genre and plays out across 11 chapters filled with beautifully drawn backgrounds.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
After global disasters and the weight of responsibility, it’s not a bad idea to turn attention to something much cuter and upbeat. This is where Alba: A Wildlife Adventure comes in. As the titular girl, you’re visiting a charming Mediterranean island, but an encounter with a beached dolphin turns a cozy holiday with grandparents into a chance to do some good for the local environment.
Alongside new friends, you’ll take photos of wildlife to learn about various animals inhabiting the island and aid distressed critters. You’ll also help locals on their troubles to gather signatures against the planned development of a luxury hotel which would ruin the island’s nature reserve still recovering from a wildfire. It’s a cute, hopeful game about the value of personal action.
Endling - Extinction is Forever
Endling is a lot fluffier than Alba, but that’s because it stars an animal as the protagonist. The story is less fluffy, unfortunately. It focuses on a fox mother of a few cute kits trying to survive in a run-down, falling apart environment. The game begins with a forest fire, and things get more stressful and dire as the time goes on, including encounters with cruel, destructive humans themselves.
The stylized art and animations are very expressive, lending the foxes a lot of personality, in both serene and dangerous moments. In terms of gameplay, it’s a 3D side-scroller action game, with a strong emphasis on taking care on the fox cubs, who can learn and grow up over the course of the game. It’s easy to get invested in the story, and it’s tough to watch the foxes hurt and scared.
|Developer:||Strange Loop Games|
Eco has a very interesting high concept. It’s multiplayer survival game about coordinating efforts to prepare the planet to deal with an approaching meteor impact. However, the trick is that it’s not a case of “gather resources with reckless abandon until you have what you need”, and the game evaluated the environmental impact your actions have on the planet.
Eco has a complex, interconnected environment, which means that certain decisions in the moment might have far-reaching consequences. Deforestation leading to reduced ability to deal with air pollution, destroying habitats of an animal might lead to eradication of another, etc. Players are encouraged to build a society, and the game even has support for player-driven policies.
The world we live in
This concludes our short list of games which carry strong environmental narratives and motives, some hopeful, some pessimistic, on grand and small scale alike, from several genres. Hopefully one of these titles drew your attention and you’re ready to get immersed in matters of environmental protection through the means of video games.