Scientists turn into virtual reality care about climate change
New Delhi: We wake up to reports of melting glaciers and rapid deforestation livelihoods. But not everybody feels the urgency of climate change. Stories with primitive facts have placed humans at the centre of all destruction and made climate change global inaction’s casualty. This has led to the rise of’climate fatalists’ .
Countering these narratives is a challenge since there are new stories about climate change every day. Therefore, scientists and video game creators across the world have now turned to virtual and augmented reality to help people experience and understand the effects of climate change in a more visceral level.
Virtual reality as a medium that is pedagogical
Human beings exist within an amalgamation of realities — the physical, virtual, augmented and mixed reality. The tales that regale us will also have to evolve in order to effectively propel ideas to the digital natives of the modern world.
Data-Driven EnviroPolicy Laboratory (Data-Driven Lab), an interdisciplinary group of researchers, scientists, and programmers based at Yale-NUS College, Singapore analyzed the effects of virtual reality (VR) to communicate about climate changes. They found that successful VR generates an’empathetic experience’ among individuals, which makes the invisible causes of climate crisis visible, the remote effects instant, and the nebulous harms highly private. Use of avatars in comparison to voices vibrant images, and text formats have been found to elicit pro-environment responses in people.
Scientists around the world (Stanford Virtual Reality Lab) have discovered that if a person has a VR experience of cutting a tree down, during which she or he feels the vibration and noise of a chainsaw, that person is more likely to conserve paper. VR’s success stems from the fact that it allows people to travel places they have never been to before, which in itself promotes sustainability by reducing carbon footprint involved in physical travelling. IMMERSE, by way of example, is a 360-degree movie aimed at creating awareness and scientific understanding of coral reefs and the threat they face due to rising ocean temperatures.
Video total immersion and games
The video games market, which is pegged for a $300 billion industry by 2025, has moved beyond the perimeters of its niche community to a far larger audience. Video games often position a player as the protagonist in virtual situations, inducing ownership and motivation.
Video games offer three stages of engagement based on the level of psychological barriers the player overcomes and the amount of knowledge transfer. First is’engagement’ which defines the compatibility of the player with the game and the investment of time and energy spent interacting with it. The final stage is called’total immersion’ wherein the player feels a mixed sense of sensory, challenge-based and imaginative spheres to experience the game.
For game designer and creator of Gameful, Jane McGonigal, video games are a’collaborative environment’. McGonigal feels that’in the best-designed games, our human experience is optimized: We have important work to do, we are surrounded by potential collaborators, and we learn quickly and at a low-risk environment’.
Serious or altruistic gaming
Video games that help develop familiarity with a brand new idea, stimulate the growth of ideas and solutions and instill positive behaviour change come under the purview of’serious or altruistic gambling’. A lot of scenarios around climate change can be presented to the user in augmented or virtual realities. This is one of the greatest pulls of gaming.
Intense gaming incorporates game mechanics into everyday tasks or situational scenarios with the influx of tangible incentives such as points, badges, leaderboards, and pushes for behavioural changes.
In the game, players take on the role of a city planner and move around in an urban environment fulfilling different missions concerning climate adaptation. The game results are dispersed across metrics like savings, costs, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and human lives saved.
Game creators pledge to save environment
In September 2019, under the banner Playing for the Planet Alliance, 14 gaming platforms and game-makers like Sony, Microsoft, Rovio, Supercell, Ubisoft and WildWorks declared their commitment to climate change in the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit. Google Stadia, by way of instance, will produce a new Sustainable Game Development Guide in addition to fund research into how’green nudges’ can be effectively incorporated into game-play.
‘The video games industry has the ability to engage, inspire and captivate the imaginations of billions of people throughout the world. This makes them a hugely important partner in addressing the climate emergency,’ Inger Andersen, executive director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) had stated. The immersive environment built by video games helps individuals transition from a climate fatalist into becoming a climate realist by adding’lived experiences’ of the consequences of inaction and instilling skills to deal with climate crisis better.