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With education comes awareness and awareness brings progress, change in behavior for combating future challenges



Climate change is one of the most serious challenges of the 21st century. Developing countries like India find it more difficult to mitigate such issues due to lack of awareness about its cause and effect relation. It has been widely agreed that climate change is primarily caused due to unsustainable anthropogenic factors. UNESCO points out that education is the most effective means to confront future challenges because education is needed not just in institutions but in every aspect of life. With education comes awareness which brings change in behavior. Addressing the growing concerns of climate change call for restructuring the current method of education and may go as far as methodological and curriculum reform. It is imperative to identify more effective methods in delivering desired messages that have lasting impact on the mind of students and makes them act towards confronting the future challenges of resource scarcity, climate change, etc. One such tool is digital gaming which we explore in our proposal.

Next generation students are different from the former generations and have grown through changing technological era. This has helped them to develop specific technical skills, new way of thinking and different learning preferences which require a new educational approach.

Students are motivated by the challenges and extent of thinking required in these games. The level of effort they put in to win or complete a game is substantially higher than that in completing a task in school. The idea is to use compelling storylines of existing commercial games and offer brainstorming possibilities for designated problems. Simulations can be used to address real world problems and innovative solutions could be worked out. Role playing can be targeted using social interaction models or multi player games. We analyse the feasibility of using this tool to supplement the education process in the Indian scenario.

Category of action

Youth Leadership on Climate Change

What actions do you propose?

One such tool is computer and online gaming. It has been established through several studies across various disciplines that imaginative visions for situations and solutions to problems can be arrived through a good game. The idea is to use compelling storylines of existing commercial games as noted by Kelly (2014) and analyse the potential of these games to offer brainstorming possibilities for designated problems.

Games and interactive methods of teaching could be used to target different age groups depending upon the complexity of problems under consideration. Students in primary school could be targeted for general awareness regarding environmental issues varying from pollution, waste disposal and some basic proactive actions to be taken. Middle school level students could be targeted for creating awareness about functioning of ecosystems, various cycles, the planet, flora, fauna, linkages across each of these and impact due to disturbing of these linkages by anthropogenic factors. They could also be made aware about conserving resources like water, electricity, fuel. The higher education level students could be targeted for creating awareness about the bigger concerns like carbon footprint, travelling choices, technology, energy, designing smart homes, energy efficiency of household equipments, etc. These technical education level students could be classified based on their disciplines and specializations and corresponding problems could be explained to them in greater detail. For example, focusing on teaching designing green buildings or smart homes to architecture and civil engineering students; efficient land use planning, public transport systems, basic environmental infrastructure to city planning students, problems faced by business leaders having negative externalities or pollutants as byproducts to management students, policy level actions to social scientists, achieving energy efficiency and system efficiency at design level to mechanical engineers, industrial designing students, etc.

India is a nation for which the priorities are considerably different than any other nation. The existing models of interactive learning and education as implemented in part of USA, UK, New Zealand, etc. cannot be blindly replicated here. The main focus of the government is still to provide basic education to the children in the nation. Broadly speaking about 80% of all elementary schools in India are either run or supported by the government. However, there are massive bottlenecks due to poor shortage of resources, poor teacher to student ratios, lack of infrastructure and poor levels of teacher training. Unless these concerns are addressed and necessary funding is provided, government would not want to venture into investing into a major fixed asset i.e. computer infrastructure which forms the backbone of interactive education and gaming based teaching tool under consideration here. However, it could be started as a pilot program where funding could be available from corporates under their CSR initiatives. This additional funding required for installing the basic infrastructure could be tied up with already existing programs of the Government of India like Sarva Shikhsa Abhiyan for primary students and the disbursement of this additional fund could be linked with implementation of certain initiatives described here. IT enabled classes could be set up, these could be shared within a Panchayat or a handful of villages for the earlier phase of the project. Private sector can operate these classes and they would spend on teacher training. The government could pay the private players based on an annuity based model. This could be a performance based contract where the government conducts tests for both teachers and students and based on the overall performance, the private sector player is funded. The middle schools can follow the same model and here the initiative could be linked with Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. The critical part is targeting the villages and the government schools in urban areas.

The more practical part is to target the higher education institutions which already have an infrastructure in place. As described earlier, discipline wise students could be targeted for a specific set of problems. The funding could be made available from multilateral agencies under climate change or some donor foundations. These agencies provide substantial funding world wide for mitigation of climate change and the nature of projects funded by these agencies vary from capacity building to renewable energy generation to coastal protection to energy efficiency in industries.

Games engage in innovative solutions and problem solving strategies. Expertise and innovations are shared instantly. Social interaction can be used for role playing, posing for roles as different stakeholders and understanding complex problems. The main steps needed to incorporate any relevant issue in a game would include

  1. Identification and definition of a problem

  2. Providing necessary information on the problem

  3. Approaching the problem and solving it (here it is vital to provide sufficient information needed to solve the problem. The method used should encourage interaction between players)

Some of the games and interactive tools that currently target climate change, which could be incorporated within the Indian higher education system are

  1. World Climate, which is role playing game simulating UN climate change negotiations

  2. CEO2, is being played from the perspective of the head of a company who faces decisions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in his industries

  3. Operation Climate Control Game is a multiplayer game asking the players to decide on local environmental policies in Europe

  4. My2050, determines scenarios for the UK to lower their GHG emissions by a given target over a given period of time

  5. Logicity challenges players to reduce their carbon footprints in a virtual city

  6. Simcity, is one of the oldest games which has now announced a feature on sustainability and climate change challenges

Some of these are mainstream environmental games. But if the commercial games could be analysed for potential to integrate a hidden component or a layer of challenges like limited natural resources, changing travel behavior and transport choices, making lifestyle choices, analyse challenges of natural disasters and mitigate them, etc.; the games could still maintain their compelling storylines and yet navigate players for different and innovative decision making. Real world problems could be proposed to players and their solutions could be analysed to see how befitting they are for implementation in the real world. One such exercise was carried out through a virtual reality game in 2007 titled “World without Oil” where players simulated the effects of the possibility of an oil crisis.

The primary customers of video games in India are teenagers (population aged 13-19) and adults in the age group of 20-40 year olds. Shooter games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops, Max Payne, Halo, Gears of War and Battlefield are the most popular genre in video games in India. After shooter, fighting is the second most popular type in video games. The success of shooter and fighting games shows that action games tend to do really well in India. Apart from these, racing, strategy, role playing and sports games are also popular as per the market research for video games carried out by Euro Monitor for 2012. This information could be used to target specific age groups through developing specific modules in the already popular games across these genres.

The trend of gaming through social networking and mobile applications is gaining significant share and the users of video games and computer games are gradually transitioning towards those mediums as well. One of the reasons is easy accessibility and the feature of being able to play a game anywhere at anytime once it is installed in your phone or tablet. The game developers could use this information too and beta versions of newer games or variants of already existing games could be introduced online or on social networking sites. Once successful, applications of these games could be released. Since almost every college going student owns either a smart phone or a laptop or a tablet, the method of education proposed would not suffer.

The educational value of games has been attempted to be analysed for over two decades now. The contribution of such games towards broader goals of education for climate change would largely depend on how much these games motivate the players and how much are they able to emotionally engage the players in the game dynamics. This would be an evolving process and the impact of the currently prevalent games would have to be analysed through a primary survey of students as described by Fabricatore and Lopez (2012). Students in the age groups of 6-12, 13-18, 19-24 and 25-28 would be surveyed and analysed for a series of parameters listed below to assess the patterns, trends and impacts of these games.

  1. General information: name, nature, platform, target age

  2. Contextualization: identifying the setting, impacting factors, climate change issues in context of story line, roles available, motivation to the player, relevance of the game in the sector.

  3. Genre: complexity, game dynamics, sustainability mindset.

  4. Social interactions required/permitted by the game, interactions outside the game

  5. Role playing: possibility, relevance, scope, nature of roles, responsibilities

  6. Materialization of a global phenomenon due to a game event, unpredictability of game events

It should be noted that only a part of the environmental education or sustainability courses would be taught by this medium. In specific areas wherever possible, students can be given hands on exercises, assignments or simulation models which they can run on these games and these could form their projects, assignments or take home experiments.

The players which are our students who would be future businessmen, policy makers, city planners, architects, engineers, NGO workers, activists, leaders, educators, bureaucrats, diplomats, etc. would be able to connect to the gravity of these issues and their long term impacts on the society and planet; once they try to pose as stakeholders or participate in these games. When the necessary awareness and seriousness towards the issue is developed, these minds would spontaneously widen resulting in wider knowledge base, improved practices and climate responsive behavior. 

Who will take these actions?

The funding for the infrastructure could come either from the government or the business players or the corporate from their CSR pool of funds. The funding could otherwise come from multilateral or bilateral agencies or donor foundations who fund research and capacity building on climate change in developing countries.

The government would be responsible for disbursing this funding and monitoring the overall implementation and utilization of the funds.

The private sector could operate the computer infrastructure, wherever specifically installed for this initiative. They would train the teachers and instructors. They would be paid by the government on an annuity based model. This could be a performance based contract where the government conducts tests for both teachers and students and based on the overall performance, the private sector player is funded.

Media (print and social) could aid in spreading awareness about general environmental, sustainability and climate change issues. They could also promote the initiatives being taken in selective regions, which could result in replicability of these initiatives in regions or institutions who have the desired technology or funding available. These would mostly be private institutions. It is important to highlight the impacts of the initiative here, for people wanting to replicate it. 

What are other key benefits?

This would make the education system more effective, would increase the interest level of students in classes, help them being technologically advanced and in sync with the moving world. In future would create young leaders with awareness about climate change and empowering appropriate decision making.

Gamers have a tendency of engaging in long discussions on gaming forums. So the knowledge, awareness, expertise, innovations, which the students gain through these games would be shared spontaneously on gaming forums, social networking sites, instant messaging and several other mediums. This would turn out to be a positive externality as it would extend the awareness to the non gamers and non target audience whose behavior can also be possibly impacted to turn into a more climate responsive attitude. 

What are the proposal’s costs?

The current cost estimated does not considers the over head cost to operationalise the program such as policy level analysis, research and development. The cost estimated is majorly for setting up the infrastructure and the system in place for delivering the desired results. Initially the program would be piloted with private players under corporate social responsibility funds. 

The initiative would not bear any additional cost to be implemented at the higher education level.

To implement it at an elementary school level, considering providing 25 computers within a panchayat boundaries, would result in a fixed cost of about $7000. This would cater to 5-10 villages depending upon the demographic and geographic setup of the region. The annual variable cost including teacher salaries, rent, internet connections would turn out to be $5000. The costs would be similiar for other clusters but would be dependent on demography, geography, accessibility, remoteness, internet penetration, availability of technically qualified staff.

This cost could be further brought down if the government decides to provide free or subsidized computers to students in rural areas and urban government schools. Some of these schemes are already in place in certain states like Gujarat. If the reach could be widened to the national level, a part or whole of the fixed infrastructure cost (which is the major cost here) could be funded.


Time line

The proposal for integrating digital gaming technology within the existing education system would require long term goals with short and medium term actions in place. But short and medium term actions could also be phased out depending on the application using learnings from pilot study.

Short term actions - This would focus on testing the developed framework and implementing it through conducting a pilot study within the current education system. The pilot study could be implemented through a PPP model or through private institutions. Pilot study could be conducted for higher education level students as most of the infrastructure are well in place in those cases.

Medium term actions - The application of this model to various levels of education across India through various national and international educational programs. This would majorly focus on penetration of this technology for primary and secondary education levels at rural and urban centers by providing infrastructure and necessary trained teaching staff. Setting up a proper institutional structure to function at national, state and district level.

Long term actions - Reviving the model as per future needs and developing various other new models for creating awareness and integration of these new setups within the existing system. Here the target could be widened to addressing specific concerns depending upon the level of complexity, developing scenarios, performing simulations for real world problems and analysis the applicability of these in turn back in the real world.

Related proposals

Shifting behavior for changing climate

Adaptation to climate change

Urban resilience: Climate change action for Urban areas

Consumption of product and services



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