A new £1 million videogame project is looking to encapsulate the complex and disquieting realities of climate change – by handing you control of the earth.
The game, currently entitled Climate Challenge 2010, has been in development at Oxford studio Red Redemption for around 24 months. The turn-based micro-management title allows people to play god for two hundred virtual years – giving you free reign to treat the earth as you wish before watching the consequences unfold.
And to ensure that the earth’s bewildering ecosystems are successfully simulated, Red Redemption has enlisted Dr Myles Allen – one of Britain’s leading climate scientists from Oxford University – to help formulate the game’s climate change engine.
Climate Challenge 2010 uses Dr Allen’s well-known climate science model, which has previously featured in the science journal Nature. The game will be published during summer, released on PC both in physical format and also via digital platforms such as Steam and Direct2Drive.
Dr Allen said videogames provide a great opportunity to traffic vital information to the wider public.
“Providing science for games is a new field for me,” he said, “but public engagement with the issues surrounding climate change is vital and videogames are a great way of reaching millions of people.”
Perhaps what will emerge as Climate Challenge 2010’s greatest triumph is how the mere simulation of climate change – the simple presentation of the scientific model – could remove the vehemence that damages the flow of scientific debate.
So emotionally charged is the dispute (or, if you must, ‘non-dispute’) surrounding climate change that the scientist at the centre of the ‘climategate’ email scandal recently admitted that he considered suicide after being subjected to global public outcry.
Former University of East Anglia Professor Phil Jones was accused of suppressing data which challenged the issue of climate change. The scandal sparked off after his emails were hacked and posted online by climate-change sceptics. Professor Jones has since been hit by numerous death threats, has lost a stone in weight, and is currently on medication.
Climate Challenge 2010 may allow people to view the data without being so emotionally stringed to either side of the debate.
Red Redemption’s Ian Roberts said that the game’s accurate depiction of a climate model remains a key element.
“Accurate real-world data is used in many videogames,” he said. “Take a motor racing game, you need to know how a car responds when a player brakes or turns too sharply. A climate based game is similar but you can't test drive the climate. So we needed the expertise of a real scientist. That's why Dr. Allen’s input is so important."
Climate Challenge 2010 is a sequel to the highly successful Flash game, Climate Challenge, also developed by Red Redemption. The first game, sponsored by the BBC, has been played online by nearly 1 million people since its 2007 launch.
Oxford-based Red Redemption was founded in 2001 and carries a ten-man team. The Serious Games group is focussed on producing socially conscious, commercial games that aim to be socially-positive, fun, relevant, rewarding and scientifically accurate.
Red Redemption MD Klaude Thomas believes the game will stand out as “timely and highly appealing to players”.