‘Strangely Hypnotic’ Game Tells a Climate Change Story
Amelia Urry at grist.org is out with a review of “a climate change game you’d actually want to play,” a “sort of a video game…kind of a textbook” that makes it fun to learn geophysics.
“Here’s the thing about explicitly environmental messaging: It’s often a huge bummer,” she writes. “And since we humans are basically primed to seek pleasure and avoid pain, this means plenty of people just plug their ears and hum when faced with a lot of this downer information.”
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Enter Earth Primer, a game that “isn’t about climate change the problem. But it also kinda is.”
The game puts the power in the hands of the player, allowing you to alter the temperature, raise sea levels, or watch small shifts in wind or rainfall ripple across the screen.
“The whole thing is strangely hypnotic,” Urry says. “I can raise a mountain on a plain with my index finger, and watch the wind carry cotton puffs of cloud from the seashore while trees rise and fall like blades of grass. When I drag my finger over the mountain, it snows. A groaning cap of glacier rises up and begins to grind its way down the slope like too much frosting—until I increase the temperature a couple of degrees, and the glacier vaporizes with a loud creak.”
Developer Chaim Gingold said he was determined not to be heavy-handed in the design of the game. But he still had a message to deliver. “As humans on this planet, at this moment, we are simultaneously small and we’re large,” he told Urry. “We have this effect that’s bigger than we can imagine, and it’s hard to conceptualize.”