Serious Climate Games: An Introduction

Submitted by Julia Barrott | published 26th Oct 2018 | last updated 9th Aug 2023

Climate Adaptation Training Annotation

  • Level: Introductory 
  • Time commitment: 1-2 hours 
  • Learning product: Guidance 
  • Sector: Multi-sector 
  • Language: English 
  • Certificate available: No 
Games for a New Climate: how games speed up learning, dialogue, and action on climate risks


Playing games has become a common method of engaging different people and communities in all things climate change – from impacts and adaptation, to equity and power dynamics. Games are a fun but serious way of helping humanity tackle the complexities, volatilities and uncertainties that could be hallmarks of the “new normal” for the global climate.

Five reasons for using games in learning and dialogue (from the Climate Centre):  

  1. They encourage active learning and active engagement in dialogues. 
  2. Games allow you to simplify complex systems. 
  3. In games, you have to take decisions and receive feedback on the result of that decision. 
  4. Games provide opportunity for reflection, discovery, exploration and challenge
  5. And .... they are fun! Considering that emotions matter in learning - this is also a serious goal. 

Read more about the benefits of games:

Red Cross Climate Centre Games

The Red Cross Climate Centre has an entire library of games that address different components of climate change and interactions. These games can be used to educate participants about potential climate change impacts, and/or can be used to facilitate bonding and increase trust amongst participants.

The Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project has applied some of these games, including (with videos):

NOTE: Many of these games require careful facilitation and guided reflection during and after the game to ensure that the resulting outcomes and learning align with what was intended.

In case you are interested in finding out more about integrating games into your practice, or looking for training in game development for climate and development, please contact Margot Curl ([email protected]). 

A brief overview of some serious games:  

Zap – Whoosh: This energizer is quick and light hearted and can serve to reflect on different ways of working within teams. It also helps explore different ways of communication and working in teams under pressure.

Sure!: This game aims to support community groups to engage in focused conversations about planning and collaboration to better prepare for floods

Spot the Status: Status can be seen as a behaviour; as something we do. The field of climate resilience is full of human interaction, where status behaviour plays a large role. The aim of this exercise is to increase consciousness, flexibility and choice in our interactions by enhancing the understanding of status behaviour.

SNAP!: This game explores thinking patterns on a certain topic in a dynamic way with a partner and can be used to dynamically explore associations with a certain topic or process. In this game you can explore different ways of thinking about climate resilience, or any other topic such as forecasts, or cooperation.

Sinking Island: Players directly experience possible impacts of climate change, such as: sea level rise, desertification, increased flooding and melting icebergs. Also, they experience the scarcity of resources and the importance of cooperation.

Shocks and Shields: Since 2009, an estimated one person every second has been displaced by a disaster (IDMC 2015). With climate change impacting the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and adding to the stress on resources, migration can become increasingly necessary. Note: migration is a complex issue with many causes.

Seasonal Forecast Game: The goal is to see how well each player / farmer can adjust their farming decisions based on seasonal forecasts. At the end of the game, participants should understand the possible uses and limitations of these forecasts, their personal risk taking preferences and how seasonal forecasts can affect livelihood decisions.

Ready!: ‘Ready’ was developed as an innovative way to have focused conversations with communities around location-specific disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction. ‘Ready’ is a physical game that can be played using any disaster scenario, and is most effective using a realistic scenario for the participants.

Race for Risk Reduction:  Adaptation processes often aim at trying out new strategies for dealing with climate variabilities and change. The game can support a discussion on seeing all possible opportunities while planning for adaptation and disaster risk management under pressure.

Paying for Predictions: When humanitarians understand and use forecasts they can take more meaningful action before a disaster happens. Climate change will increasingly influence how, when and where many extreme events will occur. This means forecasts become increasingly important!

Master that Disaster: For years we have realised the importance of the linkages between climate resilience & social protection e.g. safety nets. These issues seem complex! To make them accessible - we have created a game that helps you navigate this complexity. During this game you will experience how climate sensitive social protection works - and how it is linked to climate shocks.

Invest in the Future: Invest in the Future is an interactive game played with cards. It combines storytelling and strategy to engage players in thinking about the importance of taking Climate Change into consideration as they strive to make responsible, sustainable development investment decisions.

Farming Juggle: The way people deal and cope with challenges depends on the capacity that they have and the time in which they can react. If the severity of a situation increases, but capactiy to respond remains the same, problems develop, strain increases and eventually, things break down. The Farming Juggle is a dynamic exercise that can be used to explore the complex and compounding effects of multiple stressors in any system.

Dissolving Disasters: This physical participatory activity aims to support experiential learning and dialogue on the concept of “resilience”. Players become donors or subsistence farmers and face changing risks. They must make individual and collective decisions, with consequences. Rich discussions emerge, and there will be winners and losers.

Greenhouse Gas Game: Understanding the greenhouse effect and the link with human activity, enables players to deduce the cause of global warming and climate change. Participants explore the links between climate change and extreme events. This highlights why actions are needed to deal with the impacts of climate change (adaptation) as well as the causes of climate change (mitigation).

Gender and Climate: A participatory activity to support experiential learning and dialogue on the differential vulnerability of women and men facing climate variability and change. Players first take on the role of subsistence farmers facing changing risks -- then ‘walk in the shoes’ of a specific gender role.

Decisions for the Decade: “Decisions for the Decade” is an intensely interactive game designed to support learning and dialogue about key aspects of long-term investments under uncertainty. Many decision makers in the real world do not initially recognize the risk of disasters as deeply uncertain and plan for the most likely scenarios rather than for extreme events that can bring devastating outcomes. The gameplay experience of “Decisions for the Decade” helps people recognize that there are aspects of the future climate that are deeply uncertain, and therefore managing risks may require being prepared for surprises.

Climate Message: Complex climate messages can often cause more confusion than clarity. This light hearted exercise can open the space for an exploration on the effectiveness of seasonal forecasts and how to communicate them effectively without oversimplifying the message.

A Buzz about Dengue: A Buzz about Dengue is a quick, team-based strategy game that teaches players how to combat Dengue Fever. Players take on the role of either humans or mosquitoes, and must balance protective actions and proactive actions to keep their community safe. Trivia questions provide real-world knowledge on how to stop Dengue in its tracks, and give players an advantage in the competitive game.

Before the Storm: Before the Storm is a decision-making game designed to introduce the weather forecasts and possible actions to take against natural disasters through different roles. The object of the game is to win the most rounds by playing an action card from one's hand to best "match" that round's communal forecast card as chosen by that round's judging player.

Answer with your feet: People attending conferences and workshops often work in siloed areas and may have limited opportunities to learn about other participants backgrounds and expertise areas. Answer with your feet offers a quick, engaging, and fun activity to create community in a workshop, conference session, or community context.

Ananse Games: Handwashing with Ananse is a three-chapter story and game experience centred on the popular Ghanaian folklore character Ananse. He often takes the form of a spider who likes to trick other people. In this game, Ananse has stolen all the knowledge about handwashing and hid it in his pockets. The children have to play through three scenarios where they trick Ananse to win the handwashing knowledge back from him. The three chapters in the facilitation guide are illustrated with Ghanaian artwork and focus on distinct pieces of knowledge: why it is important to wash hands with water and soap; how to do it correctly; and when to do it.

Act to Adapt: Exploring how community resources are vulnerable to extreme weather, negotiating to prioritise vulnerable resources in a community and making decisions to take individual or collective action to adapt resources are key building blocks of resilience. Noticing climate change impacting the frequency and intensity of hazards, emphasises the importance of ‘Acting to Adapt’ today.

For more games explore the RCCC website:

In case you are interested in finding out more about integrating games into your practice, or looking for training in game development for climate and development, please contact Margot Curl ([email protected]).