THE CHALLENGE OF EFFECTING CHANGE TOGETHER

The Natural History Museum of Utah sits in one of the world’s most diverse and beautiful environments but the effects of climate change can no longer be ignored.

Looking across the pond for expert advice, the museum team commissioned an onsite multiplayer game to effect genuine behaviour change around issues of sustainability, biodiversity, population growth and urban sprawl.

“Games are a brilliant – perhaps the best – medium to present complex systems to a novice audience,” said Preloaded Head of Design, James Allsopp. “Games can show in real time the interplay and causal effect of complex dynamics, and by doing so make this complexity understandable, and often more relatable.

In order to meaningfully effect behaviour change we knew that collaborative decision making, and player feedback would be critical, both in terms of the decisions you make as an individual, and the repercussions of the decisions that have been made by those before you. The experience needed to be real-time, and feel alive.

Games can show in real time the interplay and causal effect of complex dynamics, and by doing so make this complexity understandable, and often more relatable”

James Allsopp,
Head of Design (Preloaded)

Collaborative Play

Visitors entering the Museum’s dedicated space for this multiplayer game see a vibrant panorama representing Utah.  An asynchronous, round-based multiplayer format was created to address the challenges of group dynamics in a busy museum environment. The shared screen is controlled by five terminals that players can step up to at any time to spend a limited number of rounds battling climate change. The large projection is both a spectacle for observers and a crucial feedback device for players that constantly changes throughout the day.

Gameplay works on a number of levels so visitors of all ages can enjoy the experience. A simple cause and effect system rewards younger visitors with striking visuals, while older players can delve deeper and make more strategic choices as they learn to adapt to a changing climate.

Will a Ski Resort or National Park bring more fun to the world? Can a Vertical Farm generate enough food? How will Coal or Gas energy affect air quality?

Every small decision adds up to larger consequences and players inadvertently adopt roles as advocates for particular ways of meeting the needs of the city. In true ‘fun failure’ fashion, players can explore the impact of poor decisions through extreme events such as wildfire, drought and dust storms that wreak havoc on their designs. With a range of playful ‘tiles’ to choose from, but only a limited set available within each round, players will soon realise they need to work together – as they must in real life – for any hope of saving Utah.

Every small decision adds up to larger consequences and players inadvertently adopt roles as advocates for particular ways of meeting the needs of the city.

THE RESULTS

Over 4,000 players have already logged in at the Museum to play Utah Climate Challenge, with most players opting for the Eco Warrior play-style, meaning they’re playing to reduce the effects of climate change. Additionally, 40% of players play all the way through six rounds, which indicates a remarkable hold time in a museum setting. The game’s content is based on a variety of real-world data sets to help make the experience authentic.

“We have witnessed an extraordinary level of collaboration and group strategy among game players, even when the players are strangers”, said Becky Menlove, Associate Director for Visitor Experience at the Museum. “Young people especially become invested in their choices and are eager to share their strategies with other players entering the gallery space. While Utah Climate Challenge is only a game, it’s one in which the players have a good deal of agency to make positive change. Our hope is that visitors will take away these ideas – that their choices matter, that collective impacts are critical, and that we can all work together to make the future we want in Utah.”

We have witnessed an extraordinary level of collaboration and group strategy among game players, even when the players are strangers”

Becky Menlove,
Associate Director for Visitor Experience (NHMU)


Hiring PRELOADED for our project was both thrilling and terrifying. Their work in history and philosophy are a perfect fit, but our teams are geographically so far apart. Any concerns were quickly dispelled by their enthusiasm and the ease with which we communicated. It was an enormously collaborative process and we love the new game. Every day we see visitors watching, talking and playing together, spending far longer in the gallery than we expected.”

Becky Menlove , Associate Director for Visitor Experience, NHMU

MUSE Awards - Games & VR/AR

Awards recognition

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