UA Professor Advised Developers of New Video Game

Diana Liverman, who co-directs the UA's Institute of the Environment, served as an adviser for Fate of the World, a newly released video game that gives players the option to save or destroy the world in the face of adverse global climate change.

Diana Liverman has worked to expand scientific knowledge of climate change through academic research and creative writing – and now video gaming.

Liverman, who co-directs the University of Arizona's Institute of the Environment, is an adviser to the England-based Red Redemption, which today released a scientific-themed and simulation-driven video game.

Called Fate of the World, players can engage in 10 different scenarios over a 200-year period beginning in 2020 to either build a Utopian and sustainable global society or destroy the world through climate change.

"Some might say, 'That's terrible to have the option to burn up the world.' But to destroy the world successfully, you would have to know a lot about climate change, emissions, world geography and politics and how they combine with other factors to create a catastrophe," said Liverman, who returned to the UA geography faculty in 2009.

"We are hoping this video game will educate people about climate change," Liverman said. The PC and Mac-compatible and game is available to the general public in North America and Europe. "This is another way to improve climate literacy."

Liverman has informed government officials and scientists of her climate change research at the national and international levels.

Previously, she served as vice-chair of the study on Informing Effective Decisions and Actions Related to Climate Change. Also, she was chiefly involved in the National Research Council's report commissioned by Congress to generate more timely and reliable climate information.

For her contributions, Liverman earned the Founders Gold Medal from the Royal Geographical Society, a prestigious medal approved by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

In her work with Red Redemption, Liverman provided expert advice on the implications of adverse climate change and informed the production team about the importance of international agents and negotiations.

Liverman linked up with Red Redemption during her time as director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford.

One of her students, Hannah Rowlands, who co-founded the gaming company with her partner Gobion Rowlands, asked climate experts for advice in developing and educational game for the BBC about climate change.

The result was the award-winning online game, BBC Climate Change, which was based on an Oxford climate model, incorporating advice from Liverman and others. More than 2 million people have played the game since its 2007 release.

Liverman, who remains a visiting professor for environmental policy and development and senior research fellow with the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford, said the new and more game is based on the BBC idea but “is much more complex, exciting and interactive.”

Players must consider a range of variables and situations, including control population growth, mass migration, pandemics, wildlife extinction, endangered environments, geoengineering feats and power sources.

Also, depending on the scenario, players must decide whether to ban cars, avoid subsidizing oil companies, collaborate with international agents, sponsor lobbyists or build regional storm protection systems.

These are the nuances that were critical to add "so people will learn how the climate system works and about how certain policies increase the risk of certain climate change," Liverman said.

"Even though some people may play for the negative outcomes," she added, "it is still valuable and educational while they are doing it."

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications, October 29, 2010