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The Gamification of Environmental Education

In addition to using the gamification practices and techniques already discussed to enhance teaching practices, there are numerous games that environmental educators can integrate into lessons to enrich EE for students. 


Serious Games 

  • Serious Educational Games are essentially gamified scientific knowledge. They are games that teach within a specific content domain, usually using a platform such as a board or computer browser (this is in contrast to gamification, which applies game elements to contexts outside of a game). Serious Games are designed to teach distinct concepts such as recycling do’s and don’ts, the parts of a plant cell, or the energy flow in food chains. There are numerous free environmentally focused SG’s online that are available for educators to use. A good resource to begin exploring digital games for EE is

(Morganti, et al., 2017)


Location-Based Games 

  • Location-based games are games that are tied to a specific place. Scavenger hunts are a great example. This type of game can use technology platforms to facilitate the game, or traditional methods, both work equally as well at achieving higher levels of connectedness to nature. Geogames are another example of complex location-based games, but are designed specifically for smartphones and offer free and non-linear access to all game tasks displayed on a map. This means that students are able to complete tasks in any order that they choose within the geogame. Other mobile games such as treasure hunting applications, provide students with a linear narrative and pre-defined path which students must follow within a location. Depending on the goal of the lesson, both types of location-based games are great resources for environmental educators. 

(McGonigal, 2011)


Planet Craft Games

  • Planet Craft games are games that involve many complex and interconnected systems. These games allow you to alter these systems and engage in the process of ‘planet crafting’. Within the genre of Planet Craft games, there are subcategories, including God Games and Forecasting Games. Examples of God Games include Sims, Spore, Civilization, and Black and White. All God Games encourage players to practice the three skills that are critical for real planet crafting: taking a long view (considering our actions in the context of far reaching future human lives), ecosystems thinking (looking at the world as a complex web of interconnected, interdependent, parts), and pilot experimentation (the process of designing and running many small tests of different strategies and solutions to discover the best course of action to take). While it is true that games oversimplify the world in which we live, we can still learn from them. 

  • Forecasting games combine  collective  intelligence  with  planetary-scale  simulation. They ask players to reimagine and reinvent the way we feed ourselves, the way we transport ourselves, the way we get water, the way we design cities, the way we manufacture everything, the way we power our lives – they are ‘what if’ games. World Without Oil, Superstruct, Evoke, and the Long Game are examples of forecasting games. Forecasting games are still relatively new, but are a growing genre of games within the field of gamified learning. 

(McGonigal, 2011)


Real-World Games 

  • Of course, educators can also gamify EE without the use of technology and large-scale gamified learning. This could include playing real-world games, such as those found in Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature (2010). 


McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: The Penguin Press.

Morganti, L., Pallavicini, F., Cadel, E., Candelieri, A., Archetti, F., & Mantovani, F. (2017). Gaming for Earth: Serious games and gamification to engage consumers

     in pro-environmental behaviours for energy efficiency. Energy Research & Social Science, 29, 95-102.

Young, J., Haas, E., & McGown, E. (2010). Coyote's Guide To Connecting with Nature. Shelton, Washington: Own Link Media Corporation.

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