Video game challenges students to save the world

Daniel Bedford, a geography professor at Weber State, explaining how to play Fate of the World. The computer video game is
Daniel Bedford, a geography professor at Weber State University, explains how to play “Fate of the World,” a strategy game that puts the possible global crisis of the future in the player’s hands.

Between oil crises, global warming, fossil fuels, climate change and economic crisis, the question being posed to teams of Weber State University students is if they have what it takes to save the world. The students are participating in the first “Fate of the World” Challenge hosted by WSU faculty.

“Fate of the World” is a computer strategy game that puts the possible global crisis of the future in the player’s hands. Daniel Bedford, a geography professor, described it as “a game that is about steering the world through the challenges of the next century and beyond. It uses real science and is realistic these are problems that are a very real possibility of us facing.”

Bedford presented the idea of the game at the WSU Energy and Sustainability retreat. Jake Cain, the WSU Energy and Sustainability Office manager, said he was impressed by the idea of the game, along with many others who attended the retreat.

“I haven’t started playing the game yet, but I’m very excited to,” said Jennifer Bodine, contest participant and sustainability specialist. “I have been excited ever since Bedford presented it to us at the retreat last spring.”

Cain said he was so impressed that he purchased a site license to the game, allowing up to 60 Wildcats to participate in the challenge.

“The game does a great job of balancing environmental, social and economic needs,” Cain said. “This principle is at the heart of sustainability. This game does a good job of showing how important balancing these three issues is in regards to facing up-and-coming world challenges.”

The game will be played in teams of 3–4 students.

“If you play the game on your own, it’s very time-consuming,” Bedford said. “I thought it would be helpful for students to work as a group. However they choose to do this is up to them.”

Some teams have plans to play together, while other teams have plans to play separately.

Our team’s strategy is to work individually and then come together,” Bodine said. “We can track our decisions that have been made so we can go back and see where we went wrong, and then come together with our ideas on what worked and what didn’t work and hopefully create a master strategy.”

Participants have until Oct. 11 to complete a learning level in the game called “The Rise of Africa” and then successfully move on to the level called “Fuel Crisis” that they will be judged on.

“In ‘Fuel Crisis’, teams are trying to rack up the highest score,” Bedford said. “Those who send me notification of a verifiable high score will be the winners of a $50 iTunes gift card.”

In order to win the “Fuel Crisis” level, the global human development index cannot fall below 0.5 by the year 2120. According to the United Nations Development program, the human development index is a single statistic which serves as a reference for both social and economic development, measuring factors such as life expectancy and educational attainment.

Players are placed in the role of president of the Global Environmental Organization, a mock organization in the game. Players cannot be banned from eight or more regions of the world at once in order to win. Conditions such as global warming, in which the temperature goes above 3 degrees Celsius, as well as losing control of a Global Environmental Organization headquarters region, will cause a player to lose.

Bedford said that although the game is challenging, he hopes to continue the competition next year depending on feedback from the students.

“I’m very excited to see how it goes,” he said. “I’m interested to see if playing the game will catch students’ imaginations. My experience is if you’re not careful, you can get completely sucked in. It has a strong educational component in it, though, and I’m wondering if it might be a way to catch people’s imaginations about real-world issues.”