Transmedia experiences help involve people in climate change debate

By March 19, 2014
Alaska Chronofact

The FutureCoast project is exploring the subject of climate change through a game-based approach, including a worldwide treasure hunt around the discovery of voicemail messages ‘from the future’.

FutureCoast is a storytelling game created by the PoLAR Partnership at Columbia University and funded by the US National Science Foundation. The creators are Sara Tatcher and Ken Eklund, both producers of US transmedia games, Ken being noted as the creator of the WWO (World without Oil) game whose main focus was global dependency on oil. In designing FutureCoast, the creative team followed the same gamification approach to exploring environmental issues. The project was launched in February this year and will close at end-April. The objective is to launch a games-based conversation on the practical issues around climate change, running in both the virtual and the real world.

Voicemails from the future, a search for ‘chronofacts’

The story opens with voicemail messages from participants. FutureCoast provides online learning resources on the subject of climate change so that everyone can immerse him/herself in factual information. Participants are then invited to formulate their personal vision of the future in the form of a voicemail message. Voice recordings ‘from the future’, painting a short picture or scene of what our world might look like in a few years’ time, can be made via the website or by phone. For example, a message leaked back to us‘from 2031’  gives the schedule for crossing the Golden Gate Bridge between two high tides. These recordings are then encrypted in real objects called ‘chronofacts’, which will be hidden throughout the world. For the ‘Coasters’ – those who are playing the game – all the clues as to where the chronofacts are hidden are available on the website or via YoutubeTumblr and Twitter. A number of them have already been found in the United States and there are strong clues indicating that more chronofacts are about to turn up soon in France – in Paris and at Aix-les-Bains in the south-east of the country.

Helping to discuss issues in a practical tone

This games-based approach is designed to encourage both adults and youngsters to get closely involved in environmental issues such as climate change. The FutureCoast creators believe that role-playing, storytelling and interaction are a useful way to get people to address worrying issues. The basic strategy is to set up a fictional situation and establish a realistic framework and then rely on collaborative input from ‘the crowd’ to drive the story and create experiences. The project owners are also planning to organize events, including school activities, via the project’s main website, FutureVoices, in order to take the initiative further and encourage the very young to relate to these issues through entertainment. Meanwhile the concept has already proved its appeal, people are getting involved and the primary objective – to launch a wide discussion on the subject without taking an overly moralistic tone – has been achieved. 

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