A pre-apocalyptic game. Can you stop climate change?
Geoengineering 101: The Pre-Apocalyptic Board Game
Action to stop climate change came too little and too late. Geoengineering, although dangerous and unproven, is now on the table. A world like this has no winners, but can you minimize the hardship your regions face?
The Story Behind the Game: There's a wishful but dangerous line of thinking that stopping climate change by cutting carbon emissions isn't that urgent since geoengineering offers a technological fix. Scientists have warned that while things like aerosols or cloud seeding could lower temperatures, there are lots of unknown side effects, as well as equity issues.
I had been exploring using games to illustrate the political dynamics in climate issues, first with California Water Crisis in 2014. Games are a great introduction to topics that involve systems and multiple competing parties. Unlike a film or article, a game puts the player in an active role, where their actions have an impact on the outcome.
Geoengineering 101 started out as a concept entry to the November 2014 Board Game Designer Forum's Game Design Showdown. Critiques were highly positive and after several months of development and testing, Geoengineering 101 is ready to go.
How to Play the Game: In Geoengineering 101, you're one of two to four world leaders, and you have two parallel but sometimes competing goals: One is to minimize the hardship your regions endure from heat, drought, or flood. The other is to fully decarbonize the world economy. Only by eliminating all fossil fuel use can climate change be slowed and the game won. However, in the meantime, the air conditioners and pumps running on fossil fuels can shield you from the some of the impacts.
Though what is winning anyway? A world where climate change has gotten so bad that geoengineering is on the table is one without winners, only those that lose less. There's only one way to "win" in Geoengineering 101: have the least amount of Hardship when all Carbon Tokens are finally removed. There's plenty of ways to lose: having all regions destroyed by the climate going off the charts, or when all the players suffer a total of 100 Hardship - which in a typical game, is only 10-15 turns away.
Side effects and delayed actions
In Geoengineering 101, you'll take turns with other players to carry out geoengineering programs or acts of deep green resistance. There's a time delay to your actions, though: the program you initiate now doesn't come up until your next turn. In between, other players' programs happen and if uncoordinated, can trigger side effects that cause hardship, randomize the sequence of future actions, or shift global rainfall patterns.
The game takes inspiration from real climate science and geoengineering ideas, as well as the political implications of different nations unilaterally or cooperatively meddling with the weather. Enjoy the game, but let's hope that carbon emissions can be stopped before we ever have to play it for real.