Game Research Special Interest Group: Games for Sustainability

Understanding how games contribute to ecological thought and make people become sustainable citizens

Motivation and impact

Contemporary games are increasingly used not only to entertain, but also to persuade people, raising their awareness and changing or reinforcing their attitudes and behavior for the good of society. They want to make a difference at an individual, community, and/or societal level. Sustainability games – or ecogames - are one kind of such ‘games for change’: they are imaginative spaces for playing and learning, expressing often contested moral and political values. They seek to contribute to ecological thought and to make people become sustainable citizens. They are used to raise awareness for a variety of sustainability issues, such as renewable energy transition, circular economy, sustainable mobility, and green water use and energy consumption. These persuasive and participatory games represent an experiential turn in climate communication and storytelling, trying to reinforce ecological attitudes and behaviour and stimulate collaborative environmental decision making.


  • Organizing an international conference on ecogames in 2020, in collaboration with Games for Change (NYC). We will focus on the following four themes: Games for policy formulation and anticipatory governance (Joost Vervoort, Astrid Magnus), Eco modding (Stefan Werning), Games for change (Joost Raessens) and Eco science-fiction games (Gerald Farca).
  • Joint publication on Ecogames. The SIG aims to compile an Open Access publication in the Games ands Play book series (Amsterdam University Press), to appear after the conference in 2021.
  • Collection of ecogames. There are several partly overlapping lists and taxonomies of ecogames avauilable online, which we will summarize and reference.
  • Organzing an international lecture series.
  • Creating a professional learning comunity (meetings, summer schools): SIG members present their research, exchange of ideas.

We will address the following underlying research questions :

  • How can sustainability games address today’s environmental challenges?
  • How do we conceptualize the impact ofsustainability games?
  • How can sustainability games facilitate social change on a micro, meso and macro level?
  • How do sustainability games construct playful forms of civic engagement by positioning its users in medium-specific ways?
  • What is the environmental impact of game production, distribution and reception?

Team members

  • Joost Vervoort, Karin Rebel, Astrid Mangnus, Lisette van Beek, Ioannis Lampropoulos; Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Faculty of Geosciences.
  • Stefan Werning, Michiel de Lange, Sjors Martens, Joost Raessens, Faculty of Humanities.
  • Jan Dirk Fijnheer, Herre van Oostendorp; Faculty of Science, Information and Computing Sciences.
  • Gerald Farca, Vitrivius Hochschule Leipzig.


  • Dutch Game Garden, Utrecht.
  • Sound and Vision, Hilversum.
  • Game companies, such as Submarine (Amsterdam). IJsfontein (Amsterdam), Ranj (Rotterdam), Grendel Games (Leeuwarden).
  • Impact Festival, Utrecht.
  • Gamelab, Faculties of Humanities, Utrecht University.
  • Games for Change, NYC.

Initiatives and Projects

  • ‘Anticiplay’; this research project will look at how the participatory designing of games can help conceive and frame current systems of governance and their sustainability challenges, as well as future governance alternatives, to develop a new ground-breaking methodological approach – game co-design for anticipatory governance (Joost Vervoort, Astrid Magnus).
  • Workshop Regenerative play in utopia: Ecologicalscience fiction in video games (in collaboration with Gerald Farca, Vitrivius Hochschule Leipzig).
  • Back to the beginning and let’s play again. Defining a usable framework to analyze persuasive games focused on sustainability (Herre van Oostendorp, Jan Dirk Fijnheer, Ioannis Lampropoulos, researchers Faculty of Humanities; game design companies; UU students).
  • VR and sustainability (Joost Raessens).
  • Eco modding, Gamelab Utrecht (Stefan Werning).
  • Powersaver Game: an online game in which participants are challenged to save energy in their homes (Jan Dirk Fijnheer).
  • Utrecht 2040. Using a flexible simulation game for knowledge integration across disciplines and faculties, students Utrecht University (based upon UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) (Karin Rebel).
  • EcoPlay Symposium 2019 (Joost Raessens).


  • The Sustainability Game - A game focused on acquainting students across UU with basic sustainability ideas (Geosciences): Karin Rebel, Astrid Mangnus, Joost Vervoort.
  • Course - Sustainability Game (block 3, Geosciences): Karin Rebel, Joost Vervoort and Astrid Mangnus in collaboration with the Utrecht University of the Arts (HKU) focused on the development of sustainability game prototypes.
  • Course - Politics of the Earth (block 3, Global Sustainability Science) – Students build games to understand governance problems: Joost Vervoort.
  • Course - Green Media and Civic Engagement (block 1, Humanities): Joost Raessens and Stefan Werning.