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How to push which button: Understanding the potential of climate games through the lens of social action theories

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Different presents and futures of Climate Change are too large or difficult to fully grasp. Games are a potential help with this: They can contribute to futuring capacities, including systems knowledge, throughout the population, and disseminate experiential knowledge of realities related to Climate Change. They can grant it a place in public arenas as well as in discourse at large. It seems, then, that we should welcome the recent rise in Climate Games. In this article, we set out to first map the games, commercial and ‘serious’, that relate to Climate Change. We present some ‘good practices’ in Climate Games. Then, we present a typology that covers the existing Climate Games. Finally, we lay out implicit notions of social actions that seem to underlie these games and their goals regarding Climate Games. We find six types of Climate Change applications in games: Casual, Systems Management, Knowledge, Experience, Subversive, and ‘Backdrop’. These types seem to want to do good by influencing mechanisms that guide social action. But they appeal to this based on implicit premises; each type can be linked to at least one of these different theories of social action in sociology: (anti)hegemonic thinking; discourse theory; habitus; structuration/risk assessment; Rational Action Theory; ‘culture as values’; ‘culture as institutions’, and Weber’s types of social action. Providing a model to assess goals in Climate Games can help overcome the ‘awareness problem’ and allow game designers and -funders to make an informed choice on the validity of the mechanisms they wish to tap into.

Citation

Moossdorff C, Vervoort J. 2021. How to push which button: Understanding the potential of climate games through the lens of social action theories. Wageningen, the Netherlands: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).