Eco is a multiplayer game about starting a civilization from scratch and progressing it far enough that you can stop a meteor from destroying your virtual world. During all of that technological advancement, however, you can have a negative impact on the environment. That includes global warming.
Two Bit Circus chief technical officer Eric Gradman moderated a talk with Eco developer Strange Loop Games chief executive officer John Krajewski during our GamesBeat Summit 2019 event today in Los Angeles. Krajewski talked about the parallels between global warming in his game and in the real world.
“People, by default, will not consider the group,” Krajewski said of Eco’s players as they start. At the beginning of the game, each player only has a few simple tools. At first, everyone focuses on themselves. They chop down trees and build their houses with little thought of how this impacts the world around them.
But it does. Knocking down too many trees without planting replacements can destroy forests. Hunting too many animals can drive them to extinction. And just like in the real world, producing too much carbon dioxide can warm the planet.
In Eco, players generate CO2 by making iron, an important resource. It’s usually not until people realize there’s a problem that they band together to try to solve it. Eco lets players create their own governments and laws. They can do things like limit the amount of iron created or put taxes in place to try and limit demand.
Teaching and learning
Eco isn’t just entertainment. Strange Loop designed that game for educational purposes. Entire classrooms and schools can go through the Eco experience together. He recounted a story about how one class used all the available tress to build their houses. The next class, playing on the same servers, found themselves tree-less. So they knocked down the other class’s houses to build their own.
Studies are also being down with the students playing Eco. These include asking them if the game changes their thoughts about global warming. While traditional schooling can teach kids about our impact on the environment, Eco can show them and have them participate in the process.
But Eco isn’t just for school children. Online communities have formed together to create their own Eco servers. And according to Krajewski, they’re realizing the same thing as real environmental scientists. That solving global warming is not a one-sided problem. It’s a complex situation that requires complex solutions, and Eco gives us a chance to see the effects of civilization in a smaller, accelerated, digital world.