Climate change is a complex and often overwhelming sustainability challenge. While climate action is urgent, decades of efforts to spread awareness have not sufficiently mobilized citizens to enact effective change and actively demand it from governments and organizations. Those invested in engaging people with climate change keep searching for effective methods to not just provide accurate and relevant information, but to foster emotional connection with the issue and action.
“Games and gamification are some of the newest, most intriguing tools to join the climate change engagement arena. But there is still a gap between the general optimism in the public discourse and our scientific understanding of games’ true potential,” says Fernández Galeote.
Games have already engaged many, but much is still unknown
In his doctoral research, Fernández Galeote studied the potential of games and gamification to engage people with climate change. He also explored the pre-existing gamified interventions and games for climate change engagement.
“The findings indicate that much of the existing research could be improved in how it is designed and reported. In addition, none of the games addressed the health and well-being consequences of the climate crisis, and few used immersive VR technology,” he says.
Players learned and their attitudes improved in less than an hour
Based on the gaps found in current research and practice, Fernández Galeote developed and designed Climate Connected: Outbreak, a single-player, story-based digital game exploring the well-being implications of the climate crisis. The game encourages players to learn and consider the many actions that citizens can take in a country such as Finland. It was put to the test in a user study and an experiment with over a hundred participants.
“The results show that players learned to a similar degree to those who read a text with informational graphs. Their attitudes, sense of environmental self-efficacy, and their actions a few days after the experiment were also comparable to those of readers. However, players enjoyed their experience more than text readers, especially those who played in immersive VR,” says Fernández Galeote.
Effective climate game design requires rigor and caution
The results of the experiment suggest that games are effective engagement tools, but they may not always offer a clear advantage over more traditional, and less resource-intensive, options. More research involving other contexts, audiences, and designs is still needed.
“The game examined is just one possible design among countless possibilities,” says Fernández Galeote, emphasizing that researchers and designers should carefully consider in every situation whether they should create yet another game.
“Some key questions are: will a game provide added value given our audience, context, and goal? If so, does such a game already exist? If we cannot find any, do we have access to the skills and resources needed to make a good one? Bringing more artifacts to the world when there is no need or when they are poised to fail is not very sustainable. I hope that my research can help identify existing work and support new creations.”
Daniel Fernández Galeote’s doctoral research shows that games can bring environmental sustainability to audiences ranging from school students to managers and policymakers. He aims to continue researching the intersection between games and environmental topics at Tampere University’s Gamification Group, focusing on the possible role of gamification in supporting sustainability transitions.
Public defense on Wednesday 14 February
The doctoral dissertation of MSc (Internet and Game Studies) Daniel Fernández Galeote in the field of games and gamification titled Gamification and Climate Change Engagement: Building knowledge, developing practice, and studying experiences and effects will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences at Tampere University in Auditorium D11 in the Päätalo building (address: Kalevantie 4, Tampere) at 12:00 on Wednesday 14th of February 2024.
The Opponent will be Professor Alexander Klippel from Wageningen University & Research. The Custos will be Professor Juho Hamari from the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences, Tampere University.