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Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active

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See Through Games For Effective Climate Action

see through games think game learn game act game effective climate action carbon drawdowon see through news

See Through News suite of games to speed up carbon drawdown, and move the Inactive towards effective climate action

Not so random

See Through News applies its storytelling methodology to a wide variety of apparently diverse projects. At first sight, any links between such apparently random things as superhero drawing competitions, bleeding-edge AI projects and bedtime story podcasts might not seem obvious.

But these are just different starting points, different points of engagement to attract people with different interests. All See Through News lead to the same Goal of Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active, and are designed to be:

  • engaging and fun in their own right, and largely unbadged as ‘green’/’eco’/’enviro-’ etc.
  • attractive to different types of people, predominantly our category of Unwilling Inactivists, i.e. people who recognise the existence and human cause of climate change, but who feel powerless to do anything about it.

It turns out that loads of people play games. So that’s why we’re developing See Through Games.

See Through Games Overview

Graphic representing the links between the 3 See Through Games

An international team of See Through News volunteers – experts in video game production, audio production, animation, AI, and data visualisation – is now developing our three interconnected Games.  

Free and open source, these games are based on the following rationale:

  • In order to be active, we need to act.
  • In order to act, we (usually) need to know.
  • In order to know, we need to learn.
  • In order to learn, we need to think.

That’s the logic, then, behind The Think Game, The Learn Game and The Act Game.

The Think Game

The Think Game (formerly The See Through News 60” Climate Activism Challenge) asks players to give a score between 0 and 10 to an apparently random list of 15 names of countries, brands, individuals and organisations, within 60 seconds.

All they’re told is that ‘zero represents the worst climate inactivism, and 10 the best climate activism’. How they come up with that number is based entirely on their own opinions and personal measuring stick.

  1. Before the countdown music starts, we ask some basic questions about where they’re from, the year they were born, and what they do.
  2. The game itself involves them assigning a 0-10 score to a particular well-known entity.
  3. After the 15 questions, we ask them what metrics they used to arrive at their scores, and which country/brand/individual/organisation would have received their top score.

There are no right or wrong answers, but through its fun, tense, engaging game-show format, The Think Game gets people thinking about what climate activism means.

What the Think Game reveals

The Think Game is fun. But it also generates 3 kinds of data.

  1. basic demographic data about the player (the first 4 questions before the game starts)
  2. quantitative data about their honest opinion of an entity’s green credentials (the 1-10 scores)
  3. qualitative data about how the Player currently thinks about effective climate activism (the post-quiz questions)

In particular, it tells what most people think of climate activism. In nearly all cases, they mention Individual Behaviour rather than government regulation, which we define as Ineffective Activism.

As the data grows, we’ll get a more nuanced and granular understanding, but the broad conclusion is that the PR campaign of Big Oil to shift the focus away from 100 companies that generate 70% of the world’s CO2, and onto our individual behaviour as consumers, has been a resounding success.

When asked to define what they understand by effective climate action, players of the Think Game reel off a familiar checklist of Individual Actions for which they berate themselves for neglecting: recycling, electric vehicles, litter-picking. 

Admirable and beneficial though these individual actions may be, the inconvenient truth is that on their own, they barely put a dent into reducing atmospheric carbon. 

This data provides a benchmark for current understanding of effective climate action, which is critical to finessing all our other projects. Having benchmarked an individual or cohort, we can then evaluate the effectiveness of our own projects by getting them to play again after exposure to See Through News projects, and see if, to what degree, and how, their views have changed.

What The Think Game is designed to do

But The Think Game is also designed for a specific, direct, measureable outcome.

By thinking about this issue in a different (but fun!) way, The Think Game subtly steers players to what suddenly becomes an obvious conclusion – what are the right and wrong answers?

This is our crucial first step in leading players towards effective climate action. Having had fun giving out their opinions, they now want to know The Facts, The Right and Wrong answers, what they ‘should’ have said.

In other words, they’re now primed to play…

The Learn Game

The Learn Game provides these answers, based on the calculations of Project Drawdown.

Project Drawdown’s Table of Solutions is the most comprehensive, detailed, expert assessment of the most effective things we can do as a species to reduce carbon, ranking them in their impact.

Essentially, The Learn Game gamifies learning the Table of Solutions. We’ve yet to meet anyone who’s not shocked by how far off their estimates are. This includes the world’s most active climate activists attending COP 26.

What the Learn Game reveals

The Learn Game reveals that

Before they play, The Learn Game asks players to predict two things:

  • the top 5 most effective actions we can take to reduce carbon
  • how many of the top 20 actions results from individual behaviour v. government regulation

For nearly everyone, The Learn Game is a process of discovering how shockingly wrong they are. It’s a case study in the phenomenon, noted by Hans Rosling, that the better informed the players think they are, the more wrong they are.

The Learn Game is a fun process to discover the shocking reality that if every individual were to do everything in their power to reduce carbon overnight, it would get us less than 10% of where we need to get to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.  

i.e., the other 90+% requires Government Regulation (this point is made with another free game GRIBbage, which requires only paper and pencil).

What The Learn Game is designed to do

The Learn Game prepares the grounds to consider the consequences of this realisation:

  • Government Regulation/enforcement can make massive changes overnight
  • Even in the most despotic regimes, ‘Government’ is not an abstract monolith, impervious to influence. 
  • Anyone in power knows the more they ignore the Will of the People, the more precarious their hold on power is.

The Learn Game is designed to formulate such questions in players’ minds, as they becomes aware of the real-world, political implications of the Table of Solutions bald numbers.

Players of The Learn Game are guided to the understanding that if any time spent trying to change Government Regulation – at any level from local to international – is orders of magnitude more effective than shrugging our shoulders and/or do nothing more than recycle and litter-pick.

Having realised this, the natural question to ask is...’Yes! But how’?

They’re now ready to play…

The Act Game

The Act Game provides a quick, practical, effective answer players can implement within 90 seconds if they want to cut to the chase, or can take a meandering journey towards, if they enjoy the gamified bells and whistles.

The Act Game is the answer to the rhetorical questions which is so often asked following discussion of any climate issue. Someone shrugs their shoulders and asks ‘Yes, but what can we actually do about it?’.

The Act Game’s interface, like its companion games, is fun, engaging and easy – it’s a pub-located 80’s-style pixel-art game.

But The Act Game is the serious, pointy-end of the whole project. It’s the part that speeds up carbon drawdown, and produces a measurable outcome

What the Act Game reveals

The Act Game gamifies the most significant ‘individual behaviour’ we can change, which is to exert maximum leverage on changing government regulation and enforcement.

‘Emailing your MP’ is not an original outcome for any activist campaign, but what The Act Game does it to explain what your email should say, and why. Act Game emails don’t seek to educate politicians, or raise their awareness, or anything else they can ignore or palm off without any consequence.

Act Game emails are super-specific, with a measurable, binary outcome that no politician can evade. Their vote is a matter of public record, so what they choose to say in response is irrelevant. Act Game players are not engaging their elected representative in a debate, they’re informing them of their intention, and baldly stating the consequences of their wishes being ignored.

Quite apart from the outcome, the process of understanding that individuals do actually hold power, and that politicians are supposed to be our servants and not our masters, is a critical outcome for The Act Game. It re-empowers individuals who’ve given up on the political process, irrespective of their partisan affiliation.

The process facilitated by The Act Game reveals two key practical calculations:

the number of individuals who send Act Game emails can have a disproportionate effect on an elected official who wants to be re-elected. It may not take that many to get a politician worried enough to change their vote.

in a tight vote, a few emails can make a measurable difference between a specific, measurably carbon-reducing clause being included in a specific piece of upcoming legislation, and nothing happening. ?Understanding the potential of this process, and its measurable outcomes, means that failure in a particular instance, rather than demoralising a player, can further motivate and empower them to try again.

What The Act Game is designed to do

Thinking and Learning are essential preconditions to Acting, but do nothing to reducing the number of carbon-based molecules trapping heat in our atmosphere.

The Act Game is the crucial last step that can measurably reduce carbon. It’s the point at which these series of interlocking games connect to the See Through News goal of Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active.

See Through News is relentlessly focused on atmospheric physics, and The Act Game is a key way we can measure success or failure in CO2 reduced or sequestered.

‘Raising Awareness’ (=Thinking) and Educating (=Learning] are important, but only if they lead to Acting.