Smithsonian Natural History

This past Thursday, I attended the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Climate Change Game Night. The event in Washington, D.C. combined game demonstrations and short lectures, was entertaining and educational.

One of the games demonstrated at the Smithsonian was developed by students from the University of Oklahoma for the recent National Climate Game Jam sponsored by the White House. Their entry, Climate Conquerors, has players struggling to balance development and sustainability. While building cities and supplying their energy needs brings a player closer to winning, certain sources of energy (coal-fired power plants, for example) present a strategic risk. These contribute to global carbon emissions and subject their owner to increasingly destructive natural disasters.

Another game jam project there on Thursday was AdaptNation. This one, from students at the University of Washington, is a cooperative game that challenges players to meet the current resource needs of their individual cities while also preparing for future climate change impacts. If the resource needs are not met, a player must go in to debt, putting the whole nation at risk of bankruptcy.

A project of Smithsonian staff, Arctic Race is a game inspired by Forbidden Island. The players, as field scientists, must complete their research goals before the areas of arctic ice they’re studying melt. Each turn, players move their pawns based on their choice of transportation (which can’t be used again until every transportation method has been selected) and then take the action indicated by the space they land on.

Among the other games demonstrated at the game night were the card games, EcoChains, about building Arctic marine food chains, and Thirst for Power, about the interrelationships of energy, water, and climate change, as well as several computer-based games.

The night’s lectures included talks on a variety of climate issues. Professor Deborah Solomon of Montgomery College’s Gaming and Simulation program, also provided an introduction to resources that attendees might use for their own game design efforts.

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