Ubisoft is planning a surprise in-game wildfire to highlight climate issues

Players who connect The Ubisoft video game Riders Republic will find at some point over the next few months that part of the extreme sports game’s virtual forest is on fire.

Driving the news: The in-game wildfire, which the publisher says won’t be announced in advance, is one of many initiatives video game companies are using to raise awareness of environmental threats.

  • Many of these plans were presented today by Playing for the Planet Alliance, a consortium of game studios that formed in 2019 working with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to promote green messaging through games.
  • Ubisoft’s idea won a media-selected award at the Alliance’s annual conference Green game jamin which studios are invited to come up with ideas that can promote eco-friendly ideas among gamers.

Details: The Riders Republic blueprint, dubbed Phoenix, is designed to shock players on the impact of wildfires.

  • When players log in, they see that the sky in the game has turned orange and their character is wearing a gas mask, according to a description of effort published by Ubisoft.
  • Sections of the game map, which take place in the western United States, will be blocked off for players. The idea is that nearby fires make it impossible to breathe there.
  • Players will then be able to reduce the spread of the fire through in-game activities during a “short and intense live event”.

More effort: Many game jam efforts involved planting trees in real life, an action tied to Sony’s in-game achievements. Forbidden Horizon West, Wooga’s June Trip and PixelFederation Port City Ship Tycoon.

  • Other initiatives feature tree-themed video game levels in games as disparate as Pac man and Total War: Warhammer 3.
  • UNEP’s first pick for the jam was an in-game event in popular mobile title Supercell hay day. It focuses on teaching players about regenerative agriculture that avoids the use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

Between the lines: The jam’s projects are all doable but also quite polite, focusing on the science of ecological issues without pointing fingers at the people or politicians responsible for the climate crisis.

  • On the bolder side is imagine the eartha planetary colonization game about attempting to establish a healthy world and protect it from environmental collapse caused by corporate recklessness and regulatory failure.

The big picture: Gaming companies big and small are increasingly talking about environmental causes.

  • Big companies like EA and Activision started listing climate change as a risk to their business, while Ubisoft and others now regularly report their emissions – if they haven’t yet identified effective ways to significantly reduce them.
  • It’s unclear how much of an impact the in-game messages have, but they’re now a staple of game studios who say they care about being green.

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Teresa H. Sadler