How games can simulate climate change

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Games for Change head Susanna Pollack joined Dreamscape Global founder Sheridan Tatsuno to discuss how games can simulate climate change as part of the GamesBeat Summit.

Tatsuno has quite an impressive and relevant resume. He is a writer, urban planner. He is heavily involved in the tech scene. For half a decade, he has been working on building the world of the city with a focus on climate action. He has been talking about how to deal with the effects of climate change for decades.

For Tatsuno, gaming as an industry is almost beside the point. The gaming industry, for the spaces it works in, is pretty minuscule.

“Gaming is a great industry, but it is peanuts. Is it only, how much, a couple hundred billion dollars? Tatsuno began. “Take AEC; Architecture, Engineering and Construction. It is the largest industry in the world. It is 10% of world trade. About eleven trillion dollars a year.


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But games can intersect with AEC in some interesting ways. Thirty years or so ago, much of AEC’s work arose through trial and error. Closer to the present, he began using simulators to simulate potential builds. The trick though is that you can only simulate individual buildings and a variety of external effects on those buildings.

However, thanks to the games, the simulations are much more robust. AEC simulations are not just individual buildings, but entire city blocks. Or entire cities. Those simulations can help uncover potential problems long before a single hammer is put on a nail.

players are important

And the players? Gamers are the next generation of simulation builders. The skills and knowledge that players passively acquire can directly translate to working in AEC fields, which in turn directly affects decisions about climate change. Not so much the aiming skills and reflexes learned by spending time on a shooter, but the building and visualization skills.

A player who learns to craft in Unreal Engine or Unity is already very well equipped to launch a weather-focused career. It’s all tied together by the VR industry. For players looking to make an impact, that’s where they can get their foot in the door.

“If I were a gamer, I would master both Unity and Unreal,” Tatsuno said. “Then he would start talking to people from architecture, construction, medicine and insurance… offering suggestions and ideas. That is what I would do. I think all industries are looking to attract young people.”

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