A new simulation game delivers an educational experience that sheds light on strategies to fight climate change. 

With growing awareness of the devastating impacts of climate change, inspiring hope and highlighting solutions are key to managing the climate crisis.  To help people understand the science, the risks and (most importantly) the solutions, the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3) at the University of Waterloo is launching Illuminate.  

Illuminate is an educational simulation game where players learn about the impacts of climate change and explore ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and respond to climate risks. IC3 developed Illuminate in partnership with the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute, and a multi-disciplinary team of students, staff and faculty from across campus. 

When seeing is believing 

“Games can be useful tools for communicating research and enabling people to engage with complex concepts,” says Neil Randall, executive director of the Games Institute. “Illuminate was created to help educate players about climate science in a way that is engaging and interactive. In Illuminate, players are presented with real-world issues and have to decide where to direct their efforts. This gaming model, known as “choice-and-consequence,” allows players to learn about the situation they're trying to resolve and provides feedback about their actions through changes in the game’s outcomes.” 

In Illuminate, players must complete two missions to finish the game. In mission one, players explore ways to reduce GHG emissions and prevent global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels. Once players have completed mission one, their actions lead them either to a high carbon or low carbon future where they will move on to mission two. In mission two, players visit three types of Canadian communities (coastal, rural and urban) where they are asked to help prepare communities for the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, extreme heat and extreme weather.  

Expanding its reach beyond the UWaterloo community, IC3 is launching Illuminate with support from Protect our Winters (POW) Canada and Hot Planets Cool Athletes (HPCA), national organizations that advocate for policy solutions to climate change and focus on educational programing to inspire leadership in the fight against climate change.  

Changing the game on climate solutions 

IC3 is releasing Illuminate as part of HPCA’s newly developed Climate Educator’s Portal, an educational platform designed to empower teachers across Canada to educate their students about climate change.  

Illuminate was designed for Canadian classroom settings to supplement guided lessons and for remote learning independently or with families at home. It also aims to teach players about the impacts of climate change while inspiring hope and motivating Canadians to take action and find effective solutions that will help shape our future. 

“Education is an essential part of the global response to climate change,” says Daniel Scott, executive director of IC3 and board member of POW Canada. “The University of Waterloo has been a pioneer in climate change higher education and has partnered with Protect Our Winters and their amazing motivational team of athletes to support teachers to increase climate literacy among Canadian youth and empower them to develop future climate change solutions.” 

Illuminate and the Climate Educator’s Portal are hoping to reach more than 500 schools and 15,000 students across Canada. 

IC3 is the focal point for climate change research, training and knowledge mobilization at the University of Waterloo. IC3 facilitates interdisciplinary research and education that empowers business, government and civil society to respond effectively to climate change and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society.