Six video games that teach environmentalism to help save the planet

From Eco to Sid Meier's Civilization, these titles package important messages in a fun way

Beyond Blue follows Mirai, a deep-sea researcher who is collecting data and learning more about ocean life. Photo: E-Line Media
Powered by automated translation

Video games are a powerful vehicle for delivering meaningful messages and life lessons.

One of the greatest challenges today is how to counteract the threat of global warming and environmental disasters. Experts and activists are trying to convey the message and make the situation clearer using various resources.

And, as gaming rises among groups of all ages, several titles utilise growing demand to engage audiences about environmentalism in a fun and entertaining way.

Ahead of Cop28 coming to Dubai, here are six video games that raise environmental awareness.

1. Eco (2018)

Eco is a computer game developed and published by Strange Loop Games. It plays on a foundation set by the popular game Minecraft with a stronger focus on nature and its resources.

The game is set in a virtual world that is threatened by an asteroid attack. The goal is to better understand the world’s resources and put them to use to stop the asteroid before it destroys the planet.

Although the game falls under the "survival" genre, it can also be a tranquil and calming experience. Despite the impending danger, the first objective is education and understanding what the world has to offer.

The game was developed after a successful crowdfunding campaign raised more than $200,000 in 2015. The 2018 game is playable on PC and Mac.

2. Beyond Blue (2020)

Inspired by the BBC series Blue Planet II and developed and published by E-Line Media, Beyond Blue is a breathtaking oceanic experience.

The game follows Mirai, a deep-sea researcher who is collecting data and learning more about ocean life. While there is a narrative, it is also very educational, teaching about various sea creatures and the dangers they face.

Blue Beyond is playable on Apple devices, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox consoles and the Nintendo Switch.

3. Sid Meier's Civilization (1991)

The first game in the long-running Civilization series is notable for establishing the 4X genre, a loose term for games that revolve around "exploring, expanding, exploiting and exterminating".

The original was also one of the first that used climate change as part of its gameplay.

It was developed and published by MicroProse and has a turn-based strategy, in which the player assumes the role of ruler, expanding their empire and managing its resources.

As players grow their empire, reaching the technological age, certain problems arise from pollution and overusing natural resources.

There have been many releases in the Civilization series since the first in 1991, with the most recent, Civilization VI, arriving in 2016.

It is playable on most classic consoles, as well as PC and Mac.

4. Lumino City (2014)

Solving puzzles and traversing obstacles are the objectives and challenges in Lumino City, a mobile game developed and published by State of Play Games.

The game follows Lumi, a young girl looking for her grandfather in a model city built out of reusable and renewable materials. As Lumi successfully solves the puzzles, she learns more about how the materials have been reused and recycled.

Lumino City is a fun game for little ones to learn more about sustainability and how many of the things we use in everyday life can have more than one purpose.

The game is playable on PC and Apple devices.

5. Plasticity (2019)

Created by students at the University of South California with guidance from their environmental studies professor, Plasticity is a side-scrolling game set in a world ravaged by plastic waste.

The protagonist is Noa, a young girl who attempts to clean up the city and inspire better choices.

Plasticity is a free game created by Michelle Olson and Aimee Zhang for their environmental studies course.

With supervision from their professor Karla Heidelberg, the pair crafted a game that taught players the gravity of their everyday choices when it comes to using plastic. The world in which the game takes place is a dystopian future in which plastic use has affected everything from weather to health.

Plasticity is free to download and can be played on PC or Mac.

6. Ice Flows (2016)

Ice Flows is a scientific simulation game funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. The game explores the impact of climate change on the Antarctic ice sheet.

It attempts to educate players about the relationship between rising temperatures and their effect on the ice in the Antarctic.

Ice Flows invites players to use fieldwork and computer modelling as they learn more about the long-term effects of global warming.

The game is playable on Apple devices as well as Android phones.

Updated: November 19, 2023, 3:00 AM