How to save the earth by playing games?The producer of Tencent Tianmei provided some design ideas

April 22 is Earth Day. Sam Barratt, Director of the Education and Youth Department of the United Nations Environment Programme, Tencent Tianmei Studio Group, etc. launched a roundtable discussion on “Play Games, Save the Earth!” on the Zhihu platform to discuss how to Protect the environment through games.

Background supplement: The “Playing for the Planet Alliance” alliance was initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme at the United Nations Climate Summit in September 2019. It hopes to join forces with the gaming industry around the world to reduce carbon emissions in the gaming industry. And through the power of games to enhance public awareness of environmental protection.

International game manufacturers such as Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Supercell have become the first members of the alliance, promising to promote the reduction of carbon emissions in the fields of equipment production, packaging materials, energy management, and game design. In early 2021, Tencent Tianmei Studio Group was invited to become the first game development studio from China in the alliance.

The following is the answer of Waylon, the producer of Tencent Tianmei Innovation Product Center, on the topic of “How to save the planet by playing games? What should be done?” Waylon has participated in the production of two charity games “See” and “Shadow in the Sky”. He hopes to provide design inspiration to developers who intend to integrate environmental protection themes into game design by sharing the design experience of the two charity games. The following content is shared by Waylon:

Ten years ago, the idea of ​​”playing games and saving the earth” might be regarded as a fantasy.

But today, ten years later,Games have become a very influential emerging medium. About 2.6 billion people play games in the world, accounting for 1/3 of the total population. This number is still increasing.

With the increasing influence of games, people pay more attention to the positive value of games and try to explore more of its potential. Games are also gradually becoming associated with larger social issues.

Against the background of the increasingly severe climate crisis, the United Nations Environment Program launched the “Play Games, Save the Earth” alliance, and cooperated with game manufacturers such as Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Tianmei to explore the power of games to enhance public awareness of environmental protection and attract More people are participating in environmental protection actions.

As a Tianmei, I am very happy to see that game companies take the initiative to take on more social responsibilities, and I am full of confidence in the prospect of “playing games and saving the planet”-because the attempt to promote public welfare through games has already existed.

In my career, I have been fortunate enough to participate in the production of two charitable games “See” and “Shadow in the Sky”.“See” is a work that simulates the travel experience of the visually impaired, while “Shadow in the Sky” is a “hearing sound and dodge missile” game designed for the visually impaired.

How to evaluate the mobile game “See” made by Tencent Tianmei? -Answers from Tencent Tianmei Studio Group

Although both are non-environmental themes, I hope to take this opportunity to share some of my personal experiences, and I would like to inspire students who are aspiring to devote themselves to charity game design.

Before that, I would like to answer some people’s doubts from the perspective of game designers:Why choose games as the carrier of public welfare communication, rather than traditional media such as text or video?

First of all, games are a form of entertainment that is loved by young people. They can reach a large number of people and complement traditional media.This is the audience basis for public welfare publicity to be prioritized.

Secondly, games have unique characteristics such as “interactivity” and “immersion”. Compared with other media, games are more likely to make people empathize.Just like “step into other’s shoes” is used in English slang to refer to empathy of putting oneself on the ground, the game can simulate the real experience, allowing the player to substitute into the situation of the character, “put on the other’s shoes” “Shoes” to empathize.

For example, we seldom come into contact with visually impaired people in our daily lives. Even if we learn about it through other media, we can only imagine their lives from the third-party perspective of the text or the video shooter.

In the visually impaired themed game “See”, we can experience the current travel situation of the visually impaired people from the first person through black screen, line touch, sound simulation and other gameplay, and truly appreciate their plight.

The reality of the blind path being blocked

In addition, the game also has “simulation and experimentation”, which can carry some functions that are difficult to achieve by traditional media.For example, in 2010, a protein folding game “Foldit” encouraged players to try to restore or independently design the structure of protein molecules like building blocks. From this form of brainstorming but extremely low barriers to participation, researchers have gained a lot New ideas full of surprises.

Not limited to scientific research, if serious issues such as “how to deal with the climate crisis” can be gamified and attract a large number of players to participate, “playing games” can be used as a low-cost and high-efficiency experimental method to provide a source for “saving the planet” Constantly innovative countermeasures.In the future, the exploration of games as a public welfare carrier is still promising.


That being the case, how should we design a public welfare game to make the vision of “playing games and saving the planet” a reality?

1. Clarify the function and positioning of the game

Different from mainstream entertainment games, non-profit games are generally classified as “functional games”.

Simply put, functional games do not exist for pure entertainment, but serve a certain function or purpose, guide players to learn during the game, and then have an impact on reality.

Functionality is the original intention of the design of a public welfare game, so at the beginning of the design, we must first think about who the game is for and what function or purpose we hope to achieve.

The range of functions of the game can be very broad, such as allowing the player to learn certain knowledge, master a certain skill, or guide the player to realize some undetected problems… ButExcellent functional games must accurately convey functionality, and avoid being greedy for everything, otherwise it will easily lead to scattered focus and ambiguity.

Taking “See” as an example, we once considered whether to present all aspects of the life of the visually impaired people, even the details of life such as drinking water and clothes, but found that the overall experience is a bit messy and complicated, and it is difficult to impress the players.

Later, after repeated discussions, we focused on the travel of the visually impaired. Through the occupation of the blind track and the lack of visually impaired facilities, we can see from the small to the big, the most intuitive feedback of the society’s neglect of the visually impaired. Hope In this way, people’s awareness of maintaining barrier-free facilities is awakened.

In reality, bus rides and traffic lights lack voice assistance and are not friendly to the visually impaired. Players will face these problems one by one in the game.

2. In-depth understanding and research

Charity games sometimes have the purpose of reflecting reality and warning the world. Therefore, we must pay more attention to the objective presentation of facts to ensure that the information is accurate and correct, rather than self-moving, “take it for granted” speculation or imagination.This is the bottom line that non-profit game developers should stick to.

In some fields, the developer may not be an expert, nor a party in the game. At this time, it is necessary to in-depth understanding and research, and to consult professionals to ensure that the information sources are fully complementary.

For example, when designing “See”, my colleagues and I first checked a lot of materials and consulted some visually impaired friends of the Shenzhen Association for the Blind to learn about the common problems in their lives, and went to the Blind Experience Hall to experience the darkness. In the end, I also simulated the travel of the visually impaired. I took public transportation from the company to the Shenzhen Grand Theater 21 kilometers away. The panic and helplessness along the way made my memory especially deep.

It is based on these hard-earned first-hand and second-hand information that we have enough confidence to design “See”, a game that simulates the travel experience of the visually impaired. Later, we also drew inspiration from this experience and designed an air combat game “Shadow in the Sky” that was played based on auditory clues around the idea of ​​”designing a barrier-free game for the visually impaired.”

3. Combination of function and gameplay

When designing public welfare games, because of the need to carry functionality, the gameplay is often unique, which forces developers to think and innovate. How to grasp the balance between functionality and gameplay is a major challenge that developers must face.

Take “Shadow in the Sky” as an example. This is an auditory game designed for the visually impaired. The design premise of the game is that the eyes are invisible and can only be distinguished by hearing. This also means that the buttons and text in our traditional games The display has lost its meaning.

We designed visible and black screen modes for “Shadow in the Sky”, the latter is more challenging

How to design the gameplay without graphic display, how to enter and exit the game, and how to tell the player the rules are the questions we have to think about. Under this premise, we have to fully explore the possibilities of touch-screen interaction and voice interaction, design gameplay from a breaking convention, and solve problems.

Functional games must have a “game-like look”. They must find ways to make people interesting. They cannot abandon gameplay to purely preaching in order to achieve a certain functional purpose, which loses its own positioning and value.

Excellent public welfare games should be sufficiently entertaining and give full play to the interactive features of the game.Only if the gameplay and function are combined well, and it really brings interesting or unique experience, people feel that it is fun, and they are willing to spread and share, in order to give full play to its function.

“Combination of function and gameplay” is a challenging and critical step. It is not a simple mathematical problem that accounts for 50% of each, but a combination of the inherent properties of the game for functional integration. It requires specific analysis of specific situations and takes a long time. Thinking, sometimes requires some sudden inspiration.

This step largely determines the height that the game can reach.

Four, production, polishing and persistence

Making a good public welfare game is not easy.

It carries the functional mission of influencing the world, but sometimes one more point is boring to preach, and one less point is to put the cart before the horse; it has special requirements for barrier-free gameplay, and sometimes it has to advance into the no-man’s land of operational design; Objective and true, not subjective pretentiousness to impress people… andSometimes some seemingly simple designs need to be considered and adjusted.

For example, for the black screen in “See”, many people may question why the picture is not completely black, but this is also an attempt to restore the true perspective of the visually impaired. In fact, “blindness” is also classified, and many blind people’s vision is not full. It’s black, but you can still see some vague outlines of light and shadow or light perception. In order to take into account a better sense of immersion and game difficulty, the blurriness, grayscale, brightness, viewing distance, and 3D outline of the object when the game screen is touched have been adjusted by many versions.

But the effort to make a nonprofit game is worth it.

After “See” and “Shadow in the Sky” were launched, many players gave us feedback, saying that they will pay more attention to the blind passage in reality in the future. The most impressive is the self-made video of a player, when it is played everywhere in reality. When the blind track is occupied, a full screen of “sorry” barrage appears.

At that moment, I felt that the concept of the game was indeed passed on to users, even if only a small group of people pay more attention to the visually impaired, the world can be a little better.


The impact of games on the world has never been greater.

In the next ten years, with the development of VR, AR, and somatosensory devices, games may become a more popular form of simulation to carry those important social issues and give full play to the influence of games at the level of public welfare.

The emergence of the “Play Games, Save the Earth” initiative is an opportunity. Both players and game designers can participate in public welfare undertakings through games.Let us use every action to vote for the world we want in the future.



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