Winning the ‘game’ against sea level rise

Winning the ‘game’ against sea level rise

Climate change is currently one of the main talking points in human civilisation and entails multiple problems for humanity. One of these problems are the impacts of climate change on ocean, coastal and polar ecosystems, and the human communities that depend on them, or in short: sea level rise. Researchers have been warning policy makers with reports on climate change and recently global protests have gathered millions of people, urging politicians to act according to the Paris Agreement.

“Gaming” sea level rise

So-called serious games have been ubiquitously used in this process, as it has increasingly been shown that contemporary digital games are used not only to entertain people, but also to “educate, train, and inform” them. Under the umbrella-term “serious games”, games with completely different aims or rhetorical strategies (such as newsgames and eco-games) are included. A recent example of a newsgame with this goal is The Ocean Game – The sea is rising. Can you save your town?. This game was developed by the American newspaper Los Angeles Times and published on its website as part of a multimedia news production that combined text, video reports, infographics, photographs and The Ocean Game to widen the scope of reporting.

The idea for the game developed as reporter Rosanna Xia started looking into how cities up and down the coast were confronting sea level rise. It became clear that the people and details may have been different in each place – the stakes and existential questions were the same. In order to get people to truly “see the finite number of choices – and the costs and trade-offs inherent in every one of these choices”. It lets the player be mayor of a fictional coast town for eight turns. It’s aim is to come to a solution to the sea level rise that endangers the town’s existence.

Reflexive engagement in The Ocean Game

For the New Media and Digital Culture master at Utrecht University, I wrote a paper on this topic, focussing on the game rules and game mechanics of The Ocean Game invite reflexive engagement between the game and the player. Below, you can read the research and I’d like to hear your opinions about newsgames. You find how to get in touch with me in my contact page!


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