Challenging climate change: The power of games to fight real-world problems

‘If you make a game about something that matters, your “players” will want to participate in that larger discussion. If you genuinely make that participation meaningful in the game, it can also be meaningful in real life.’Ken Eklund

In 2007 Ken Eklund created World Without Oil, the first major alternate reality game which used a socially relevant theme to drive the story.

The game sketched out the overarching conditions of a realistic oil shock, then called upon players to imagine and document their lives under those conditions. Compelling player stories and ideas were incorporated into the official narrative and posted daily – utilising social networks, blogging platforms and instant messenger services.

When WWO concluded on June 1, 2007. Its’ detailed vision of a possible future, expressed in 1,500 personal chronicles online, had immersed 68,000 viewers – a figure that continued to grow over the rest of the year.

Voicemails from the future

Eight years on, and as well as being able to access some of the blog posts that players created in response to the fictional oil crisis of ’07 and you can now hear voicemails from the future.

Ken’s 2014 project FutureCoast presented visions of world affected by climate change, including stories about the last lobster in the world and the floating houses of Alaska.

Among other accolades, Ken’s projects have scooped a SXSW award and nominated for a Webby. But most importantly, they have instigated relationships and stimulated conversations with people who may not have been previously engaged with issues like climate change.

You can hear more about Ken’s history with ARGs, his process for creating transmedia worlds and the need for serious games at his talk in Bristol on Wednesday 3 June – More info and tickets here