Studios in Green Game Jam come together to learn-by-doing for Earth Week

May 24, 2024

This year, studios joining the Green Game Jam will be trying something we’ve never tried before - using their games to get players to take doable actions for the planet in the real world.

This is based on evidence that though our awareness of climate change has massively increased, our willingness to act was the same in 2021 as it was in 2014. New research proposes that we flip the narrative - instead of raising awareness to prompt action, we need to raise action to prompt awareness.

So, to test this idea ahead of time, we asked our Green Game Jam teams to start exploring hands-on ways to take action for the planet too. 

How did video games studios build employee engagement on the topic of sustainability and collective action for the planet?

From 16th April through to the 1st May, Green Game Jam participants all over the world hosted events for their employees. In doing so, they encouraged their team members to think more about how players can narrow their scope and consider their immediate surroundings, as well as the choices they make in their day to day lives. How can they improve the environment around them by cleaning up their local park? How can they change their relationship with food by learning how to grow it from scratch? How can they harness their own purchase power by thinking about what they buy, like seasonal or vegan produce - or reduce waste by thinking about buying less?

L to R:Climate Fresk at Amazon Games, London, TEMA Foundation at Ace Games, Istanbul, GDEV/Nexters in Limmasol

Whilst we billed this as “Earth Week of Action”, it soon became more of an “Earth Month”, with proceedings kicking off on 16th April with a Climate Fresk. Facilitated by Gwen Boissel at Amazon Games’ London headquarters, a Climate Fresk is an interactive workshop to engage its participants on the topic of climate change by teaching through collaboration and play. Gwen was also one of the volunteers at the Climate Fresk Earth Day Festival workshops held on the 27th April, a series of sessions to engage anyone and everyone with environmental themes. On the same day, Nexters/GDEV opened its doors to other Limmasol game studios for an environmental-themed quiz specially developed in collaboration with the environmental charity organisation City Friends Club - proving that Saturday can be a school day too.

In Istanbul, Ace Games also used Earth Week as a time to educate and inspire, partnering with TEMA Foundation, Turkey's NGO to support 'Living with Nature in Harmony' for a session of inspiring speeches and activities. Off the back of this, the studio has eliminated single use plastics and organised group volunteering activities.

Indeed, plenty of studios chose to get out into the great outdoors and chose restoration and biodiversity as a focus of their activity. 

T to B: Ustwo, SYBO, Yaldi & Space Ape teams at Morden Hall Park, London; Supercell, Rovio & MetaCore teams at Santa Dorotea Farm, Helsinki; Wooga, Tales of Us, Trailmix & Yaldi Games at Perma Future Farm, Brandenberg

London based-ustwo games and Edinburgh-based Yaldi Games hosted a foraging trail in Morden Hall Park, London. Participants also did some litter picking as team members from Space Ape, SYBO and Trailmix learned from expert forager Elena Hoge about the different plants that grow locally and their various uses. 

Meanwhile in Berlin, Playing for the Planet’s very own Lisa Pak brought team members from Wooga, Trailmix, Yaldi Games, and Tales of Us to Perma Future Farm in Brandenberg for a day of seeding, planting beds and seeds in open fields in a regenerative way. In Helsinki, Supercell, MetaCore, Rovio and other local studios also explored the wonders of sustainable farming and gardening at Santa Dorotea Farm

And in a wonderful demonstration of the relationship between restoration and waste, Gameloft employees planted 135 oak seedlings as well as 80 pines in Lviv, planted sea pandan trees oat Goa Cemara Beach, in the southern part of Yogyakarta, and cleaned graffiti from Vacaresti Delta Natural Park in Bucharest. Meanwhile in Montreal, they organized a clean-up and waste collection event (in partnership with 1000 Tonnes) as well as ending several newsletters to employees with zero waste tips or to encourage to recycle.

T to B: Gameloft teams in Bucharest and Lviv

In fact, many Green Game Jam teams looked to combine the jam themes of waste and restoration by organising park clean-ups in cities around the world. On Earth Day itself, employees from Netherlands-based studio GamePoint removed 170 kilos of plastic and more than 800 cigarette filters from Scheveningen Beach. Meanwhile in San Francisco Google, Niantic Labs and Unity took to Mission Dolores Park - and in Berlin’s Monbijoupark Google and Wooga employees came together to clean up a grand total of 12.4 kg of trash in 1.5 hrs in partnership with Ozeankind. And finally in Helsinki, DoDreams focused on improving capabilities for recycling within their own premises followed by litter picking through their busy neighbourhood.

Top, L to R: GamePoint, Google/Niantic/Unity and Google/Wooga/HumanDeluxe clean-ups across the world!

Niantic Labs in particular kicked off their Green Game Jam activations early this week, encouraging players to also clean-up in the real world - with some inspiring results. Northern Forge in Canada was another studio that tested a proof of concept for their final activation this week, featuring an in-game location-based storyline on the themes of food, waste and restoration; whilst encouraging players to record supporting actions they’re taking in the real world. As a remote studio they also managed to organise multiple litter pick up days, donation trucks for clothing bag pick ups and vegetable-planting at home. MeshMinds began encouraging kids in urban areas to grow and eat their greens by growing them on windowsills and balconies, extending the invitation to the families of their partner companies.

L to R clockwise: Children of Vidacity employee planting vegetables for MeshMinds activation, Northern Forge veranda vegetable planting & Niantic players in-person

Studios with centralised office bases had a great time bringing environmental action into the workplace. Supercell’s “Wood City” office rolled out a sustainability-themed lunch menu in its restaurant. Planned in collaboration with the chefs at Nolla, rated one of the most sustainable restaurants in the world, the menus focused on the benefits of plant-based, reducing waste by maximising ingredients and byproducts, eating nose-to-tail, and shopping locally. And continuing on the topic of food, SYBO’s Copenhagen office came together to cook vegetarian recipes together as a way to engage employees on the ways they can lower their carbon footprint in their home lives as well as at work.

L to R: Trade for Trees at Gameloft in Hanoi, clothes swap at ustwo games in London, vegetarian cooking class at SYBO in Copenhagen

In their Paris and Barcelona offices, Gameloft scheduled clothes donation drives to encourage teams to cut down on textile waste. Their studios in Saigon and Hanoi meanwhile participated in Trade4Trees: a delightful activity in which employees swap recyclable waste items for charming stone lotus pots followed by an event to “Tree-ify” their working space.

Meanwhile in London ustwo games closed out the Week of Action with a clothes swap open not just to ustwo workers but all companies in the office building. The swap included a token-based valuation system and a downloadable guide to sustainable fashion to help swappers engage mindfully with the purchases they make. 

Lots of amazing things are happening within the games industry as part of the Green Game Jam. We’re looking forward to seeing all the activations come to life in and around the games later this year - so stay tuned for more.