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Gamers Play With Global Warming, Big Time

Increasingly many turn to Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert, rather than the evening news, to suss out the truth in politicians’ pontifications – and to be entertained. That’s not news. Yet today, a New York Times reporter wrote that another form of entertainment may affect more people’s decisions about global warming than Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth campaign.

It’s a game that’s contagiously engaging, can make us better critical thinkers, have fun and become involved with a lively community. SimCity Societies, Electronic Arts’ new game has already got people exchanging information, comparing different short and long-term scenarios, according to Andrew C. Revken. Gamers get as close to first-hand experience as one can get without stepping into the future.

“Yellow smog hangs heavy in the air above the congested roadways as workers struggle to travel from hive-like homes to massive industrial centers. Elsewhere, Farmers stroll from their homesteads to the community garden along a quiet dirt road …”

According to Revken, “One reason is that the game, while very much entertainment, forces players (at least the demo I saw) to make choices, to understand that forswearing coal means installing an amazing number of more expensive wind turbines and solar panels.

That means that to avoid going broke fighting the climate fight, one has to invest a lot more to make energy storage and solar panels far, far cheaper — and such research still isn’t happening on anything close to the scale scientists say is needed. For gamers who build a city around fossil energy choices, droughts and heat waves supposedly intensify (I haven’t bought it yet). As the designer, Rachel Bernstein, explained, climate-related disasters abroad also have a ripple effect that hurts your imagined city’s economy.“

Ah, to interview those who emerge as lead gamers/city builders after this game has been out a month. That would be fascinating. Ready Colbert?

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