Survive the Century is a new online game that allows players to save the planet or unleash their inner supervillain. Designed by writers and scientists, speculative fiction is taken to new planes in this playful, comic quest into the future.
It is the year 2050, and the world looks bleak. The climate crisis has ravaged natural habitats, millions of people are displaced, and billionaires are exploiting the fallout for yet more personal gain.
This familiar dystopian future is one that books, films and op-eds have been imagining for years, and for good reason. If we continue on our current course of depleting natural resources at breakneck speed, a comparably dire scenario seems not only feasible, but inevitable.
But in Survive the Century, you can choose differently. In this new web browser game, you – as the editor of the world’s most popular newspaper – have total power to determine the decades to come. Depending on the choices you make, you can drive us all towards environmental catastrophe – or to a better, greener and more equitable world.
Survive the Century is a branching narrative game that imagines many possible futures. Described as “cli-fi” – a new subgenre of fiction about climate change and the future – it is a simple storytelling game created with the intent of allaying the current generation’s nihilism about the future. Entertaining and tongue-in-cheek, it speculates about inventive solutions to the many problems the global community is facing.
In this more hopeful world, swathes of the world are rewilded and endangered species thrive once more. Meanwhile, oil company CEOs are charged with the crime of “ecocide” and the underground meat industry booms.
Snapshots of future headlines play with the many possibilities, with some leading to full-length mock articles of the future. While some scenarios lean more towards the comic – a former shopaholic lamenting the death of fast fashion, and scientists promising to put fattened-up polar bears on a diet – others offer shrewd commentary, prompting us to delve into challenging questions about how to balance the competing priorities that often hamper much-needed change. As you move through the game, a barometer tracking three key metrics – global temperatures, conflict, and economy – helps you to decide your next steps, all the while triggering critical reflection on how we might approach these real-world problems.
In some branches of the game, the roll of a die can lead to destroying the human population entirely – for example, by opting to implement a geo-engineering project that goes drastically wrong. Unfortunately, it’s no longer an inconceivable prospect. But, as the game aptly illustrates: there are other options.
The game was created by Sam Beckbessinger, Simon Nicholson and Christopher Trisos, but features the contributions of a long list of illustrators, writers and scientists, including collaborations with the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) of the University of Maryland. The fact that it is informed by real science gives some teeth to an otherwise often whimsical game.
Survive the Century is not monetised and is a not-for-profit project supported by Climate Interactive, SESYNC and the FLAIR Fellowship Programme, with funding from the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.
Research has suggested that video games are well-positioned to teach climate and conservation science to diverse groups, and with a far greater level of audience engagement. Hopefully, this may also result in a change of behaviour.
For example, while Survive the Century’s aim is largely to instil hope in hearts and minds, its final chapter does encourage players to transform that into practical action by joining a local climate justice group.