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Effectiveness of gaming for communicating and teaching climate change

Abstract

Games are increasingly proposed as an innovative way to convey scientific insights on the climate-economic system to students, non-experts, and the wider public. Yet, it is not clear if games can meet such expectations. We present quantitative evidence on the effectiveness of a simulation game for communicating and teaching international climate politics. We use a sample of over 200 students from Germany playing the simulation game KEEP COOL. We combine pre- and postgame surveys on climate politics with data on individual in-game decisions. Our key findings are that gaming increases the sense of personal responsibility, the confidence in politics for climate change mitigation, and makes more optimistic about international cooperation in climate politics. Furthermore, players that do cooperate less in the game become more optimistic about international cooperation but less confident about politics. These results are relevant for the design of future games, showing that effective climate games do not require climate-friendly in-game behavior as a winning condition. We conclude that simulation games can facilitate experiential learning about the difficulties of international climate politics and thereby complement both conventional communication and teaching methods.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Serious games are defined by design purpose (Wu and Lee 2015) or usage (Crookall 2010), encompassing entertainment, communicative and educational objectives.

  2. 2.

    Strictly speaking, a sense of personal responsibility is not a belief. However, as strengthening personal responsibility ranks high on the agenda of climate change communication and teaching as well as education for sustainable development in general (e.g. UN 2009), we also report on related findings.

  3. 3.

    This also holds when (i) using a non-parametric test like the Wilcoxon signed rank test, (ii) aggregating the data into the three categories in Figure 2, (iii) considering only the sample subset with complete in-game decision data.

  4. 4.

    Ordered-probit and logit regressions, which are more suitable for ordinal data on a Likert scale, yield qualitative identical results (see Supplementary Material). We report OLS regression results here as they may be more convenient to read.

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Acknowledgements

We are especially grateful to Iris Bröse, Marina Dreßler, Laura Hillwig, Swanhild Klink, Benjamin Koller, and Sabine Vogelsang for helping to collect the data. We thank Jürgen Bitzer, Nils Droste, Ulan Kasymor, Dennis Meadows, Lukas Meya, Jonas Ø. Nielsen, Jens Rommel, Dimitrios Zikos, and two anonymous reviewers as well as the selection committees for the German Simulation and Gaming Award, the German National Society for Civic Education’s Treasury for Outstanding Dissertations for helpful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Jasper N. Meya.

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Meya, J.N., Eisenack, K. Effectiveness of gaming for communicating and teaching climate change. Climatic Change 149, 319–333 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2254-7

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • International climate agreements
  • Simulation games
  • Climate change communication
  • Education for sustainable development