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Climate Change Game Jam entry: While I'm Away

While I’m Away was made for the 2017 Climate Change Game Jam at Wilfred Laurier University in Toronto, CA. The BrainPOP team, participating from the NYU Game Center in Brooklyn, NY, was:

Michael “MKG” Gi

Steve Zhengbin Ji

Will Jordan-Cooley

Kevin Miklasz Scott Price

While I'm Away is a mashup of Family Feud and Escape the Room, with some Scribblenauts-type mechanics and a MUD style text-based interaction. The basic goal of the game is to determine what actions you should take in the 10 min before you leave your apartment for a 2 week trip, to best reduce your energy bills and maximize your personal comfort. The main challenge is that the game is left open-ended in letting you determine what actions to take, leaving room for creativity and memory in determining the best course of action (rather than decide between carefully formulated options).

Model of Change

This game is targeted at someone who is knowledgeable about climate change but wants to be better about acting to reduce their energy consumption. For this person, we think the problem is not that they don’t know what the right action to take is in a given scenario. Rather, the problem is that when they are in moments in which they can take actions, they haven’t formed the habits necessary to make the right choices, or even know what choices to consider. For this reason, we wanted to confront that exact problem where someone might say to themselves “I have a short time to make some conservation minded actions- what actions should I take?” This is a different framing from a typical conservation game, which often presents players with a specific action, or guides them to an object in a 3D environment, and then says “Given this object and this set of choices, which choice is the most correct one?” For our target audience, we are assuming that they know the answer to this second scenario, but don’t know which objects and actions they should be considering in some given moment.

To reach this goal, we designed an open-ended puzzle game, where most of the challenge is trying to remember or recall what are the things in your apartment that you might even need to adjust, and then trying to figure out what you need to do to adjust them. The open-endedness creates a playfulness through creativity, and also should avoid the condescending feel of many behavioral change games, where it feels like a game designer is trying to enforce a particular behavior on that player.


Based on our goals and our model of change, these are features that we didn’t incorporate in the prototype, but would strongly consider for a full version of the game.

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