Matt Parker: Carbon Collector

Monday, December 6, 2021

On December 2nd Matt Parker, a professor at the NYU Games Center, presented his work focusing on games and climate change to the researchers at the GI. Professor Parker taught the GI’s members about “carbon removal”, a technology that uses machines to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Parker emphasized that because emissions goals have not been met, even if people never released any more CO2 again, we would still need to remove carbon from the atmosphere to survive. Therefore, while it’s important that we are using all available approaches to fight raising emissions, carbon removal in some form needs to be a large part of that plan.  

Matt showed off his game “Carbon Collector”, which models the problem for those interested. Players move multiple sliders that represent lowering emissions, and removing carbon from the atmosphere, as well as an “effort multiplier.” The player then attempts to balance these factors against the carbon budget over a series of many years. When one slider goes up, another goes down, making the game challenging to win the first time. But even when players lose, Carbon Collector demonstrates why carbon removal is vital to bringing down soaring emissions. The game demo was followed up by a spirited discussion about climate change and game design in which Professor Parker emphasized that we should all use our individual skills to fight climate change, even games researchers and designers.