Computer games may be a key to ecological learning, study says

Read the full story from Penn State University.

Computer games are an effective way to teach ecological issues and build pro-environment policy support, according to published research by an interdisciplinary group of Penn State scholars.

Using a board game to plan for a changing planet

Read the full story in Hakai Magazine.

Two kilometers inland from Hawke’s Bay on the North Island of New Zealand, a dark-red gate just off the highway marks the entrance to the Tangoio Marae. This marae (meeting place) is where a local Māori hapū (community) holds regular gatherings and ceremonies. The location seems perfect: surrounded by lush green hills, close to the city of Napier, and just a stone’s throw from the ocean. But there is one problem: the marae is at very high risk of flooding. The hapū of Tangoio Marae have a serious decision to make about this place that is so central to their community, and one of their decision-making tools is unorthodox: a board game.

Called Marae-opolythe Māori community designed the game in partnership with researchers from New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) with the explicit goal of helping the hapū decide how to manage the flood risk to their marae. While the researchers from NIWA contributed scientific data about known flood risks and projected climate change effects, the hapū brought their own experiences and values to the table during game development brainstorming sessions.

Financial Times launches online climate game

Play the game to see if you can save the planet from the worst effects of climate change. You need to keep global warming to 1.5C by cutting energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050.

Pokemon GO for climate action successfully funded on Kickstarter

Descendants Of Earth fully funded their Kickstarter campaign within 24 hours for a new game that is 400 years ahead of its time. The Melbourne-based tech startup is now pursuing their stretch goals until the campaign ends on August 14 AEST. Using real climate action to progress a time-bending storyline, players experience how their actions change the future and compete to see whose actions have the biggest impact. Team up or play solo as you build a settlement strong enough to survive the wastelands in the year 2412.

“Descendants Of Earth lets players experience the devastating long-term impacts of climate change and invites them to change our future with real action.” said co-founder Natalia Shafa.

Use the Climate Action Index to help your descendants survive a climate-changed future by sending resources forward in time. Earn resources by inputting completed actions into your phone. Resources earned in-game are split into Energy, Water and Materials. The more resources players send to their descendants, the more their world improves.

“If we’re going to fight the climate crisis we need to make better use of the supercomputers we carry around in our pockets. Our phones have become so powerful, but we’re not using them to their full capacity against this existential threat.” said co-founder Edmund Weir.

Entry into the game’s early access program is available as a reward on their Kickstarter. Having met their initial target, the campaign is now seeking funding for additional game features through their stretch goals, these include settlement construction, natural disasters and the ability to regenerate the Earth. Early backers get the opportunity to shape the game itself while saving the actual world.

Check out the Descendants Of Earth Reveal Trailer

Descendants Of Earth is an international startup formed in 2019, comprised of team members from Australia and the United States. Their mission is to make environmental action fun and accessible in order to reach the critical mass of participation needed to prevent irreversible climate change. The game is co-founded by Natalia Shafa and Edmund Weir. Natalia hails from Seattle, USA and is a marketing veteran and sci-fi author. Edmund is an urban planner and game designer from Melbourne, Australia. The project has teamed up with Landing Site Studios (USA), with a full release expected for early 2022.

Press Contact:

Natalia Shafa,

Manufacturers use games to save energy; Summer Study speaker explains how

Read the full post at ACEEE.

What’s an innovative way to save energy? In recent years, as ACEEE has found, utilities have developed all sorts of games and competitions that motivate homeowners and other people to reduce their energy use. An upcoming analysis highlights how manufacturers are also using gamification as one way to crowdsource energy savings.

Anti-racist framework created by Illinois art professor helps identify racialized design

Life's a Bridge board game
Life’s a Bridge is a board game developed by a student in Mercer’s class. It is designed to teach about power and privilege in society through the example of the design of bridges into New York City that were too low to accommodate public buses, whose passengers were mostly people of color.
Courtesy Lisa Mercer

University of Illinois graphic design professor Lisa Mercer co-developed Racism Untaught, a framework that uses the design research process to explore issues of racism and other forms of oppression. She uses the framework in her classroom and in workshops for universities and corporations to identify design that perpetuates racism.

A graphic design professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is using the design research process to explore issues of race and racism.

Lisa Mercer co-developed the framework Racism Untaught with Terresa Moses, a graphic design professor at the University of Minnesota. They use it in the classroom and in workshops in higher education and the corporate world to help identify design that perpetuates racism and find ways to solve problems through anti-racism projects. They developed the toolkit more than three years ago but demand has increased significantly in the past year and a half, particularly after the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

Photo of Lisa Mercer
Graphic design professor Lisa Mercer (Courtesy: Lisa Mercer)

Mercer and Moses were looking for ways to have meaningful conversations about race, diversity and inclusion.

“People need to lean into these difficult conversations, and we’re creating space to have the opportunity for these conversations,” Mercer said.

She and Moses have led several workshops for faculty members and staff at Illinois and at other universities, as well as for corporations – including the training of high-level managers at a national retailer to run a workshop for 600 product designers.

“We were looking to see if what we do in academia applies in industry. What we’ve found is this applies really well,” Mercer said.

The workshops – which recently have taken place on Zoom – start with building context by looking at a specific situation given as a prompt. Participants are asked to identify elements of racism in the prompt. They could be experiences (a racial slur), artifacts (use of a degrading, stereotypical image) or systems (a disciplinary code that more heavily penalizes people of color).

The prompts come from experiences described in surveys of the university campuses participating in the workshops or examples from industry. Mercer identifies as a mixed-race Latinx woman and Moses as a Black woman, and they have used some of their own experiences as prompts. For example, Mercer has been questioned about her language and heritage.

Some of the prompts used in Racism Untaught include racist branding for pancake mix; a skin cream ad that promotes and encourages lighter skin; and the public highway system designs of urban architect Robert Moses, which specified bridges over highways into certain areas of New York City be built too low for public buses, effectively excluding passengers – primarily people of color – from those areas.

Participants also consider how the problems exist at an individual, institutional or cultural level. Then they come up with ideas to re-imagine the racialized prompt and be agents of change, and they test those ideas for their impact and any unintentional consequences.

Image of a quote from the Just Say Hi campaign
A student in Lisa Mercer’s class created “Just Say Hi,” a campaign to help people understand why questions about a person’s race or ethnicity, language or sexuality can be insulting. (Courtesy: Lisa Mercer)

Mercer has used the Racism Untaught framework in her design classes. One student project was a board game, Life’s a Bridge, that uses the Moses architecture example to teach about power and privilege in society. Another student developed a campaign called “Just Say Hi” to help people understand why questions about a person’s race or ethnicity, language or sexuality can be insulting.

“If students are really given the space to analyze this, they start to understand the systems in place that uphold these levels of oppression. That is typically my favorite conversation with students,” Mercer said.

She and Moses are expanding the framework to add information about sexism, and they hope to include ableism next.

“We have been very deliberate in holding space for conversations on race and racism before we include other forms of oppression. We have begun adding prompts focused on sexism and ableism to work toward an intersectional conversation on oppression. The ultimate goal is to extend the framework to include homophobia, transphobia, cissexism, gender binary, ageism and other forms of oppression,” Mercer said.

She would like to create a class using the Racism Untaught framework that meets the U. of I.’s general education requirements to reach students from disciplines across campus. A graduate student is translating the framework into Spanish.

“We’d also like to make it more accessible, not just for people in academia or industry who have money, but to grassroots community organizers who need tools to create anti-racist design,” Mercer said.

Mercer and Moses will present a Racism Untaught workshop in June at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity.

Editor’s notes: To contact Lisa Mercer, email More information about Racism Untaught is available online.

Finnish town offers locals cake (and other rewards) for cutting CO2 emissions

Read the full story at EuroNews.

A town in Finland is offering cake, free transport tickets and other rewards to locals who cut their carbon emissions.

NASA created a game that lets you help map the ocean’s coral reefs

Read the full story at CNET.

A new iOS game from NASA asks players to identify the coral in 3D images of the ocean floor. Doing so will help train AI to do it automatically.

Children use video games to explore science in two NSF-funded projects

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

University of Illinois educational psychology professor H. Chad Lane and his team of researchers believe that the future of humanity rests in the hands of scientists so young that they currently have homework assignments and bedtimes.

The National Science Foundation seems to agree, recently awarding a total of $3.2 million in funding to two of the team’s projects. In both projects, children use the video game Minecraft to explore space or to develop solutions to significant environmental challenges on Earth.

Pokémon-like card game can help teach ecology

Read the full story from the University of British Columbia.

Playing a Pokémon-like card game about ecology and biodiversity can result in broader knowledge of species and a better understanding of ecosystems than traditional teaching methods, like slideshows, according to new research.