Sunday 5th June is World Environment Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about climate change and encouraging action to combat it. Climate change is a very current topic and looks to be a concern for the majority of people. In fact, the genre ‘cli-fi’, has been coined in recent years as a way of categorising media that deals with the environmental impact of climate change. But has cli-fi taken over the indie gaming scene?
Well, not exactly, but it does seem to be an emerging genre. The indie gaming scene isn’t a stranger to socio-political commentary or bringing attention towards an issue within our world, but games that touch on environmentalism are often overlooked, or lesser known. In games, it’s often the post-apocalyptic and dystopian worlds as the setting, rather than the build up to that world, or the tale of how that world was prevented from ever coming into being.
So here are some indie games, old and new, that have something to tell us about our planet.
Endling: Extinction is Forever
Set for release in 2022, Endling: Extinction is Forever is a simulation game where you play as a mother fox, the last on Earth, and you must teach your cubs to survive. It looks to be a deeply impactful game, and serves as a reminder- extinction truly is forever. It’s developed by Herobeat Studios and published by HandGames; the free demo is currently available to download on Steam.
Beyond Blue by E-Line Media is perhaps one of the more well known environmental games. Inspired by the BBC’s Blue Planet, this underwater exploration game takes you on a journey to discover the beauty and stories of the planet’s oceans. Although there isn’t an explicit message in the game, it does have a feature where you can unlock mini documentaries about the oceans, and, just by allowing us access to a world that goes unseen and unentered by most humans, it really offers a sense of appreciation and respect for the player.
E-Line Media also worked on a slightly lesser known game, also one concerned with environmentalism, called Never Alone. They developed this local co-op platformer alongside Upper One Games. It’s another atmospheric game, where Nuna and Fox traverse through a never-ending blizzard in an attempt to find the source.
In 2019, Plasticity Games released the puzzle-platformer indie Plasticity, where your choices impact the future of the world you live in, a world ridden in plastic. You play as Noa, a young girl who leaves her home in search of something better. It’s a very short game, with under an hour of content, but it’s free to play and packs a lot of atmosphere in a short time.
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Eco, by Strange Loop Games, was a 2018 survival craft game where the goal is to create and maintain a civilization that’s able to stop a meteor, but its mechanics are heavily tied to the game’s ecosystem, and every decision made will impact the environment. You can choose the world’s laws and economy, but with great power comes great responsibility. Eco is a game about the relationship between man and nature, it’s about compromise and sacrifice.
Stray Fawn Studio offers an interesting take on the cli-fi genre, with their 2016 game Niche. Niche is a turn-based strategy survival game that uses genetics as a mechanic to aid the player in keeping their animals alive, fighting against disease, predators, and climate change. This narrative touches on the concept of new technologies, and raises questions about whether what contributes to a problem could be used to combat that very same problem. It’s a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, all the while managing to showcase some very serious environmental issues.
Even The Ocean
Melos Han-Tani and Marina Kittaka developed their game Even The Ocean, published by Analgesic Productions, in 2016. It’s a 2D platformer game about Aliph, a powerplane technician who is given the immense task of balancing the dark and the light to save the city of Whiteforge from a climate disaster. Even The Ocean has an interesting take on environmentalism, choosing not to overwhelm the game with light, but rather teach the player about balancing the darkness alongside it.
A New Beginning
Daedalic Entertainment developed and published A New Beginning, a graphic novel style point and click game where you’re attempting to save the planet from the impending doom of the climate crisis. t’s a relatively long game for an indie, coming in at around 20 hours of content. A New Beginning is a game with a charming art style and story-rich narrative that doesn’t focus too heavily on the environmental message, allowing the story to speak for itself.
The Path to Luma
We then delve into the world of mobile games, with GameClub’s The Path to Luma. The Path to Luma is a puzzle game where you play as SAM, a Sustainability Augmentation Model, sent to save deserted planets with the help of clean energy. It’s an inspiring story that makes the game stand out among others. Mobile games are typically casual in gameplay, and a puzzle game is no exception, which perhaps makes its environmentally conscious message so much more accessible and easy to digest.
There are many more games that could be mentioned here, some that touch on climate change as a story element, and others that are designed to educate the player on a specific environmental issue. It’s great to see that indie games are providing a platform for people to speak up, send a warning, and tell a story rooted in the reality of the current climate.
Liked this list? Why not try Josh’s List of 5 Indies that Belong in a Museum.