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Environmental Sustainability

The future of our nation and the planet is dependent upon our ability to solve multiple global environmental crises.  We must ensure that we have sustainable sources of water, materials, and resources to protect global human health, our shared environment, and the global economy. To fully understand the implications of our current environmental challenges, people need a deep understanding of how the scientific method applies to complex systems.  If our society is going to develop and harness rapidly evolving technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, or personal fabrication (to name but a few), we will need a generation of scientifically literate people. Games can create spaces where players can experience the myriad of natural and human interacting variables that affect the sustainability of our environment. It has become a common understanding that change and sustainable living cannot be forced onto people.  Change and sustainability involve a transformation of entire ecologies of human beliefs, values, and practices.

More than a simulation, games are unique in that they can establish play environments where players understand complexity and complex systems from both inside the system (locally) and from a god’s eye view above it (globally).  Whereas simulations let the user visualize concepts, games let players act and test hypotheses and experience the consequences, intended and unintended.  Players can explore different options and see the long-term perils of inadequate short-term solutions. Games let players – and policy makers – explore scenarios in a safe environment where they can fail, iterate, and continually improve solutions.

Key Questions: Can games mobilize a population to make sustainable lifestyle changes? Can games inform policy about sustainable courses of action? Can games provide people feedback about the importance and impact of their choices? Can games support collective real-world action, so necessary if we are going to conserve our environment for future generations?