Presentation Title

A Teaching Tool to Address Environmental Issues: Video Games

Faculty Mentor

Ekaterina Svyatets

Start Date

18-11-2017 1:30 PM

End Date

18-11-2017 1:45 PM

Location

15-1802

Session

Interdisciplinary 1

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

interdisciplinary

Abstract

In many plot heavy games the worlds are explored in great detail through dialogue, ancillary documents, the main plot, sub plots and so forth. Often even the details of the world’s economics, social classes and trending fashion are explored. Games have also been used to explore and provide a platform for issues both timely and timeless. Racism and xenophobia, chauvinism, economic inequality and euthanasia, as some examples, have been explored at length in games for at least the last decade almost to the point of near banalness. However there is one timely issue that has not only been largely ignored but where the very mechanics of the majority of games, the way in which these games function and represent things, trivializes the issue in a period of our history when it is anything but trivial. The issue we explore in this paper is the environmental impact of people on the planet. Environmentally-focused video games can be successfully integrated in teaching environmental issues and educating the public.

Summary of research results to be presented

The effectiveness of video games as a teaching tool was tested with the author of the paper creating a small game. The game was a hybrid visual novel and 2D platformer which gave the player options of how to deal with problems that affect the environment in the game and the narrative.

Putting the game through Usability testing, players were observed and surveyed on what they thought of the game, how much they learned, and if their views on how their actions effected the environment had changed.

The results were that gamers who described themselves as apathetic to environmental issues were extremely critical of the game and the design choices. The biggest criticism was that there were not enough narrative choices. In contrast, those who had said they had positive views on their ability to make a difference in environmental issues enjoyed the game far more. For these gamers, any lack of choices in the narrative were moot, as these gamers nearly ubiquitously always chose the “noble” narrative thread, in which the character in game is altruistic and environmentally friendly.

These results are consistent with other research in what limitations video games have in their ability to teach. Without enough development time and production value, games will have a hard time reaching outside the ‘already converted’ in addressing environmental issues. If the aim of a game is to educate those who are apathetic, the fantasy elements of the game need to be robust and very responsive to player input.

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Nov 18th, 1:30 PM Nov 18th, 1:45 PM

A Teaching Tool to Address Environmental Issues: Video Games

15-1802

In many plot heavy games the worlds are explored in great detail through dialogue, ancillary documents, the main plot, sub plots and so forth. Often even the details of the world’s economics, social classes and trending fashion are explored. Games have also been used to explore and provide a platform for issues both timely and timeless. Racism and xenophobia, chauvinism, economic inequality and euthanasia, as some examples, have been explored at length in games for at least the last decade almost to the point of near banalness. However there is one timely issue that has not only been largely ignored but where the very mechanics of the majority of games, the way in which these games function and represent things, trivializes the issue in a period of our history when it is anything but trivial. The issue we explore in this paper is the environmental impact of people on the planet. Environmentally-focused video games can be successfully integrated in teaching environmental issues and educating the public.