People around the world now get to decide what their climate futures will look like by playing Survive the Century, a climate fiction game about the political, environmental and social choices humans will face between 2021 and 2100 as we adapt to the ravages of climate change. And while this online game is a work of fiction, it is informed by real science.
Created by best-selling author Sam Beckbessinger in collaboration with renowned climate scientists Dr Christopher Trisos from the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town and Associate Professor Simon Nicholson from the American University, the game aims to show players that there are steps we can take to mitigate global heating and ensure an equitable, green future. Dr Trisos and Associate Professor Nicholson are both project leads.
The player of the game is the editor of a popular newspaper and chooses headlines that influence public opinion and political responses to climate change that include a green recovery from COVID-19. The player’s choices shape the future, and they are able to read the news that results, including short fiction by Lauren Beukes, Rajat Chaudhuri, Maria Turtschaninoff and Sophia Al-Maria.
“Climate change can feel very distant. Scientific computer models make forecasts for global temperature in 2100 where we limit global warming to some level or let it create a hellscape,” said Trisos.
“But this far-off climate future depends on choices people make today. Stories of potential pathways to the future, based on science, are essential because they let us experiment with what it will be like to make choices to adapt to climate change (or not) and feel an emotional connection with the consequences of those choices.”
‘We still have power’
Trisos hopes that the game allows people to realise that the choices they make today matter and that every bit of a degree of warming matters.
“If you’re going down the highway of climate change and miss the 1.5°C exit, that doesn’t mean you’re committed to hell. Try and get off at 1.6°C,” he said.
“If you miss that, try and get off before 2°C. I really hope this helps communicate that.”
Nicholson added that “climate change is not just some distant environmental matter”.
“Climate change is made and experienced by people. How the future will play out is going to be shaped by choices taken by people today and tomorrow and the day after. We need better tools for understanding and peering into that future – not out of a sense that we can know for certain what awaits, but so that we can more clearly see the important choices available to us today.”
Beckbessinger created the game because of a feeling of hopelessness.
“I wanted to explore the ways in which we still have power. Our choices matter, and it’s not all over just yet,” she said.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.
The University of Cape Town is an internationally renowned hub for climate change research and training. Our work is a strategic response to urgent knowledge and capacity needs on the African continent – climate change impacts have severe implications for economic and social development, and Africa is particularly vulnerable. Greater expertise is needed to understand the challenges and to design, evaluate and sustain solutions. Engaged research can help society innovate and support effective climate policies and strategies.
This series of articles shows how UCT researchers are working with governments, civil society and the private sector to co-produce knowledge that is impactful, moving us towards a more resilient African society.