GI Members present their cross-faculty collaboration the “Canadian Cap and Trade Simulation” game

Monday, July 11, 2022
by Sid Heeg

On June 16th, Alex Flek (English Language and Literature) and Dr. Jason Grove (Chemical Engineering) spoke to GI members and guests about the development process of their game Canadian Cap and Trade Simulation (CCTS), a serious game meant to teach students about carbon cap and trade systems. They came together because of their research expertise—Alex in games and Jason in emissions.

Alex and Jason opened the talk by discussing how their project started. The two researchers wouldn’t have met without the GI, where they did all their prototype development and testing of the Canadian Cap and Trade Simulation. Alex spoke about how he initially thought his role was just to design the game, but he learned that he was also participating in research-creation. Alex explained that research-creation stems from art and art criticism, and he used this methodology as a form of practice-based research. These methods guided him through his initial designs and prototypes of the game, which took inspiration from analogue and digital turn-based strategy games like Sid Meier’s Civilization and correspondence (mail-based) chess.

Jason and Alex then spoke about the game's purpose, which is to teach players about reducing carbon emissions. CCTS is a “serious game,” a genre of games designed for a purpose, usually educational, beyond mere entertainment. The roles of the different players include the regulator (i.e., Governments) and emitters (i.e., oil sands, cement, ammonia, power production), and students play in teams of 2 – 5 players. The regulator allows for emissions and gives the emitters a certain amount of carbon they can emit, but the regulator must also ensure that the regulation doesn’t negatively affect the economy. Emitters can reduce their emissions by reducing production or moving to another region with more lax regulation, or they can purchase emission credits from the market.

Jason wanted students to understand cap and trade as a system and the differences between systems across regions. The game teaches students to understand the roles of emitters and regulators and the strategies they adopt. 

At the end of the talk, Alex and Jason reflected on the benefits and challenges of this type of project and the research it required. Over the course of play testing, they simplified the math involved and strived to make the game more fun and engaging. Alex and Jason are still working on the project incorporating player feedback. The game is currently being used in undergraduate classrooms.

Executive Director Dr. Neil Randall is delighted with the collaboration between English and Chemical Engineering, saying: "The Cap and Trade Simulation exemplifies the sort of innovative interdisciplinary collaboration that the Games Institute fosters. Not only is it a great example of knowledge translation through games, but it also clearly serves a greater good. This is what happens when you bring together subject matter experts and great game designers and give them the resources to get things done."

You can download Canadian Cap and Trade Simulation through the ecampus Ontario Open Library and learn more about the game on the Chemical Engineering website.

You can watch the recording of the talk on Youtube.