Garbage Gaming: How Games Teach Us About the Environment

Since most of us play our video games indoors, it is easy to forget about the big, beautiful world outside. There is much to discover and so many inspiring sights to see in our forests, parks, and backyards. However, in addition to all of that beauty, there is also a lot that we need to learn about how to keep our environment safe, clean, and intact. That’s easy to forget when we are staring at our television screens.

The good news is that the video game industry has been making strides to make their consoles cleaner and their games more topical, with special attention to environmental consciousness. Although it is still a small niche, there are several great games for children and adults that show the beauty of our world and how we can do our part to keep it that way.

The Dangers of Pollution

The world has a serious pollution problem, and much of it occurs when we don’t even realize it. For instance, the gas that your car wastes while idling in your driveway and at stoplights results in at least 4 million deaths per year. Then there is the fact that most workers don’t carpool; with 76% of people driving alone each day, commuters are putting a lot of harmful emissions into the air. 

Luckily, video games can teach kids about pollution and air quality while they are young so they can think about how to be more conscious as they grow older. One example is the mobile game Little Green Island from Ansel and Clair, which centers around an island oasis that is surrounded by pollution-creating towns. Through many levels, the players solve puzzles related to fuel waste, oil spills, and air pollution so that they can clear the air around them.


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There are also several online games that can teach the benefits of suitable air quality and how we can achieve it in our environment. In Smog City 2 players learn facts about smog and pollution, such as which seasons are more prone to smog and how emissions from different types of vehicles impact the atmosphere. Meanwhile, interactive game Clim Way lets players be in charge of hundreds of different choices related to buildings and vehicles, then witness how these decisions contribute to climate change. 

Making the World a Cleaner Place

A lot of positive change can occur by simply thinking about how little adjustments in our routines can make the planet a cleaner and better place. At home and at the office, we can reduce our use of excess paper, unplug electronics when we are not using them, and eat more organic food. Luckily, several video games are providing their own tips.

The game Recycle City gives players the chance to see how the world could change if we reused more items and consumed fewer resources. One of its mini-games quizzes users about the environment and energy use at work in school, and the other puts gamers in a dirty, polluted community and encourages them to start programs to clean up the city. There is also the Garbage Dreams Game which puts players in the role of the Zabbaleen, who collect garbage in the Middle East and recycles 80% of the trash they collect. The player takes each piece of garbage and learns how it can be reused.

We are often so caught up on how to save the land that we live on that we often forget about how important it is to keep our oceans clean. Once again, video games to the rescue! 

In a game presented by the group We Are The Oceans, players are educated about how much waste is put in our oceans, and they are tasked with removing the garbage so the Flappy Bird-esque character can swim through the ocean safety. It is also important to understand how the underwater world is set up and why it is so essential to preserve its natural splendor. In MarcoPolo Ocean, players do just that by solving puzzles and building coral reefs while learning about each creature and plant.

3D Games Add Another Dimension

While 2D mobile and computer games about the environment are always appreciated, going into the third dimension can bring a whole new level of awareness. Luckily, new games have been released that educate and entertain players, with new games on the horizon. Developers understand the popularity and wide reach of video games and how they can be used to inform others with awe-inspiring 3D environments.

One game currently in development is Doom Prepper Sailors. During the game, players use 3D boats with sensors as they make their way down lakes and steams. When they come across highly contaminated areas, the player collects data and then sends it to the people or organization responsible for the unneeded waste. While still awaiting funding, it will prove a great experience in the benefits of keeping our waterways clean and understanding the biggest perpetrators of waste.

Another such 3D gaming experience is offered with The Crystal Reef, which is more of a real-life experience that has the user scuba dive through the waters of Italy. While underwater, the player sees marine life and coral reefs that have been affected by climate change in the form of acidification. When users see the damage, it allows them to really feel how continued neglect will negatively affect our world. 

There is no way around it: The environment needs our help. If these games can do anything in the way of educating people young and old about what can be done to protect our planet, then they deserve our attention.

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