Fate of the World interview with Klaude Thomas

The aptly titled “Fate of the World” is an ambitious social impact game in which you are a world leader tasked with tackling the climate issues of the planet. The makers of the award winning “BBC Climate Challenge” have taken real statistical data that accurately predicts what the world could be like in the next 200 years based on the decisions of the player. Red Redemption Ltd.’s group of designers and programmers teamed up with professors, professional writers and composers to make a sequel that dramatically sets the stage for a true climate challenge.

I spent some time with Klaude Thomas, CEO of Red Redemption Ltd. and executive producer of Fate of the World to ask him a few questions about his company and the creation of Fate of The World.

Games for Change: At the Games for Change Festival 2010, your Chairman Gobion Rowlands mentioned that he inadvertently became a social impact game designer. What is it about social impact games that keeps Red Redemption on that track, as opposed to going a more commercial route?

Klaude Thomas: Simply the idea of games for communication; for the dialogues our culture uses to explicate and contemplate its interests (and problems). Games are particularly good for explaining things that are uncertain and dynamic (like our real Universe!) If we can be forgiven for quoting ourselves, “I think that you can do some explaining of systems using any medium. A movie or TV documentary can explain a system in a way that is easy to digest, a book can present all the graphs and data: it’s faster to turn back to a key page in a book, than to find your way to a specific point in a game level. The difference to me is the kind of understanding you acquire. After a few plays of a game your brain gets the feel of how to change the system the way you want it: you get the feel of the levers and relationships. This is a sort of deep, infra-learning.” Coupled with the freedom to experiment and self-validate, that makes them ideal for influencing discourse. Also, we love games!

So far, Red Redemption has made two games about climate issues. Why are these issues so important to the team?

Climate change is a really good subject to make video games about. Games allow you to try out something that of course you would never want to experience in real life, but that you are fascinated with or concerned by. We only get one shot in the real world; but in a game if you destroy everything, it lets you try again. That is valuable when a problem has devastating consequences most of which are amply documented in the literature on climate change.

Perhaps more significantly for climate change in particular, the best emerging tools for real understanding are integrated assessment models, such as that developed by MIT last year; and these tools bear a remarkable similarity to computer games. They attempt to make dynamic things that previously were treated in a static way, such as the SRES projections, integrating environmental feedbacks and human economic choices with the physical models. You can play around with such a model, posing in essence questions through trying out your strategies. I know this will touch a nerve, but a lot of people ask whether the problem is too many people. Well, it isn’t, but the game lets you see if it might be for yourself. Anyway, that is all very similar to what we are doing… but we can dramatize the car crash and give you a score!

Red Redemption’s previous game, Climate Challenge, reached over 1 million players, what lessons did the team learn from creating such a popular, web based game?

We learned that computer games really were able to engage with a vast audience about a serious subject. That was tremendously encouraging. We also learned things specific to our topic; for example, we learned that people liked the freedom to play around with both virtuous and the villainous responses to the problem. Letting people ‘burn it down’ validates the experience for them. They stop feeling lectured to, and start exploring.

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You cam access the Fate of the World beta for Windows here:
http://www.fateoftheworld.net Update: The servers are offline and the link no longer works.

To learn more about Red Redemption, visit their website:

http://www.red-redemption.com Update: The servers are offline and the link no longer works.

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