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Climate Change Project Wrap Up

By @StephanReilly

This week we wrap up development of our Climate Change game for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). We started this project 12 weeks ago with a team of students from schools across Ontario. Artists, programmers and designers all came together to develop a series of minigames that each taught the player a small way they could reduce their emissions and save the planet. The ultimate goal of the project was to create a digital prototype from which we could conduct research to see if:

a) games are an effective way to effect behavioural change related to people’s emissions and

b) if yes, does putting these games in the context of a Climate Change narrative reduce their effectiveness as opposed to just playing the minigames themselves?

What We Did:

We started development by breaking up into smaller teams and brainstorming minigames ideas related to the four main areas that MOECC wanted us to focus on: Consumption, Energy, Food and Travel. We approached the design of these minigames by first asking what survey question we could ask the player to see if the game had an effect. We then created a physical prototype to quickly test if these games are engaging and effectively impart the lesson.

Photo courtesy of Laurier University.

We then moved into digital prototyping after selecting 12 minigames we wanted to create. Our designers wrote the designs in a shared team design document from which the programmers read and created the digital prototypes. In this stage we could begin playtesting our digital prototypes to see what was working and what wasn’t. Unfortunately some minigames didn’t make the cut, and after some feedback from the MOECC we reduced the scope of our game from 12 minigames to 8 minigames, 3 for each area the ministry wanted us to focus on.

Development continued with design playtesting digital prototypes, giving feedback to programming and iterating. Art team was creating higher quality assets then the scribbles that programming had put in place for the purposes of testing functionality. And parallel to this we were developing the research proposal, survey questions, ethics approval and research process so we can begin testing in the fall.

We also developed two version of the game, each one with the same set of minigames but one had a narrative about Climate Change and the end of the world in the year 2100 while the other simply had the minigames and a cute animal theme. We named these versions 6 Degrees and Casual Critters respectively. This way we can test to see which version is more effective and whether the narrative context helps or hinders learning.

What We Learned:

Pretty unanimously across programming and art teams we learned the game engine we had selected to develop our project, Construct 2, wasn’t the best for what we were trying to do. This visual based engine wasn’t very accommodating for multiple users to work on the project simultaneously which later in development when we were compiling all the minigames into one build was problematic, as the minigames had all been developed separately by our programmers. Our programmers felt a little handcuffed by the limitations of the engine as they’re used to other more flexible game engines.

Photo courtesy of Laurier University.

We also learned a great deal about game development and team work. For many of us this was our first time working on a game project with such a large team size, developing a game for a client. We ran into a few hiccups with communication and for a couple team members their inexperience led to some things having to be redone several times.

What’s Next:

Moving into the Fall two students on our team will be sticking around to help conduct, parse through and write up our research. We’ll be travelling to schools and libraries across Ontario looking for participants so stay tuned. Depending on the results of our research we may end up developing this game into a fully polished game released to the public. We’re excited to see what’s next and we’ll keep you updated here and on our YouTube channel.

Check out our development videos over on our YouTube and keep up with our space on Twitter!