2023 American Psychological Association Divisision 34 Conference

Game-based research for climate change: Presentation at the APA Division 34 annual conference

At the recent APA Division 34 (Environmental, Population, and Conservation Psychology) conference, which took place October 19-20, ZSI’s Katharina Koller shared insights from the GREAT Project. The presentation focused on the pilot of GREAT’s participatory approach to game-based research for promoting climate action.

The Power of Games for Climate Change

Emerging research suggests that games can significantly enhance climate change knowledge, awareness, and behavioral intentions (Fernández Galeote et al., 2021; Foxman & Forelle, 2014; Gordon & Baldwin-Philippi, 2014). They also hold the potential to boost political trust and participation, particularly when addressing climate policies. At the same time, acceptable and socially just climate policies require the involvement of non-researchers such as citizens, policymakers, and NGOs in climate change research (Albert et al., 2021; Kythreotis et al., 2019).

The GREAT Approach

The GREAT Project combines these ideas by creating games to explore climate change challenges and foster public engagement. In its pilot application to develop a dilemma-based game, this process involved five key steps:

  1. Engaging Participants: We collaborated with various groups, including politicians and citizens from three countries, engaged in several participatory workshops.
  2. Identifying Climate Change Issues: Using different qualitative methods, we identified the most current local climate policy debates, perceived problems, and personal worries about climate change.
  3. Developing Game Narratives: We transformed the most urgent climate change issues into dilemmas and determined who should be involved.
  4. Prototype Development: Our team created the initial game prototype and discussed it with the initial participants.
  5. Game Implementation: The final step was meant to implement the game and analyze data collaboratively. However, time constraints led to participant disengagement, and we tested the analysis format with mock data from GREAT partner Playmob instead.

Insights Gained

Our workshops provided valuable insights regarding perceived climate change issues as well as local issues. Interestingly, different stakeholders emphasized different concerns. For instance, the citizen we worked with focused more on global issues, whereas the politicians in our workshops emphasized local concerns and interests. A main issue raised with regards to climate policy development was the lack of citizen involvement; a main challenge in the future will be to ensure that all citizens can have a say in developing climate strategies.

The Road Ahead

As next steps, the GREAT team will refine the methodology, involve new stakeholders, implement the game, and study its impact. This first pilot demonstrated the potential of participatory game-based research in the realm of environmental psychology and climate change research. By engaging various stakeholders, we strive for more effective and inclusive approaches to climate change research and public participation. Watch this space for updates on our progress in shaping a more sustainable future.

Further Reading

Albert, A., Balázs, B., Butkevičienė, E., Mayer, K., & Perelló, J. (2021). Citizen Social Science: New and Established Approaches to Participation in Social Research. In K. Vohland, A. Land-Zandstra, L. Ceccaroni, R. Lemmens, J. Perelló, M. Ponti, R. Samson, & K. Wagenknecht (Eds.), The Science of Citizen Science (pp. 119–138). Springer International Publishing. https://link.springer.com/10.1007/978-3-030-58278-4_7

Fernández Galeote, D., Rajanen, M., Rajanen, D., Legaki, N.-Z., Langley, D. J., & Hamari, J. (2021). Gamification for climate change engagement: Review of corpus and future agenda. Environmental Research Letters, 16(6), 063004. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/abec05

Foxman, M., & Forelle, M. (2014). Electing to Play: MTV’s Fantasy Election and Changes in Political Engagement Through Gameplay. Games and Culture, 9(6), 454–467. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412014549804

Gordon, E., & Baldwin-Philippi, J. (2014). Playful Civic Learning: Enabling Reflection and Lateral Trust in Game-based Public Participation. International Journal of Communication, 8, 759–786.

Kythreotis, A. P., Mantyka-Pringle, C., Mercer, T. G., Whitmarsh, L. E., Corner, A., Paavola, J., Chambers, C., Miller, B. A., & Castree, N. (2019). Citizen Social Science for More Integrative and Effective Climate Action: A Science-Policy Perspective. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 7, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2019.00010